Great News for Michigan on Migration Front!

Michigan moves into "Balanced" category

United Van Lines gave the Associated Press an early look at its annual inbound vs. outbound household move statistics for 2013 and the news for Michigan looks fantastic.

For the first time in 16 years Michigan is no longer in the "high-outbound" moves category, defined by United Van Lines (UVL) as 55 percent or more of customer traffic leaving a particular state.

The Great Lake State has entered what UVL calls its "Balanced" category, where in-bound and out-bound traffic are similar. That's in sharp contrast to this state's lost decade: for four years between 2006 and 2009 Michigan actually had the nation's highest outbound traffic rate. For the first half of 2009, UVL reported that a staggering 70 percent of its Michigan customers were leaving the state.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has long used United Van Lines data. Our own statistical analysis has found its figures to be very highly correlated with actual Census numbers (which come out much later), making them a leading migration indicator. This matters because of the insights this information can provide policymakers.

Migration is arguably the best single metric for assessing quality of life issues in a particular location. In good times or bad, people often move to other states for reasons that can be difficult to quantify. The further people go, the higher the cost in both financial and psychological terms. Leaving behind friends, family and associates is never easy. By studying migration details we hope to learn why people move, and use the information to change bad policies that otherwise threaten to create a Michigan diaspora of former neighbors now living in other states.

Mackinac Center research focused on Michigan has found for every 10 percent increase in personal taxes an additional 4,900 people leave the Great Lake State annually. So for example, an 11.5 percent individual income tax in 2007 has driven around 29,000 of our citizens away so far — and that's a conservative estimate.

Our research found that taxes aren't the only reason people move, of course. No one will be surprised that weather matters too, and other variables we've described here and here and here.

Policymakers can't affect the weather, but cancelling the negative impact of past tax hikes is easy: Just roll back individual income tax rates to the level promised before the 2007 increase.