Jerry Kremer

This is the age of coming and going


By any measure, this winter was one of the coldest and wettest ones I can recall. Quite a few bone-chilling days made you want to crawl into bed and stay there. Many of my friends chose to travel to Florida for vacations and some have talked about moving there for good, complaining about our weather, high taxes, crime and the cost of living. The national media hasn’t helped, either, with periodic stories about the number of New Yorkers who are fleeing the state.
With the help of the United Van Lines, the U.S. Movers Association and a variety of other sources, I was able to get a better picture of who is moving and why they’re moving. The states that lost the largest numbers of residents in 2021, in order of loss, were New Jersey, Illinois, New York, Connecticut, California, Michigan, Minnesota, Louisiana, Ohio and Nebraska. The states gaining in population, in order of growth, were Vermont, South Dakota, South Carolina, West Virginia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Oregon, Idaho and Rhode Island.
New Jersey had the dubious distinction of losing the most residents. Roughly 69 percent of moves in the state were outbound. The vast majority of those people who left were retirees, followed by those wishing to live closer to other family members. Thanks to remote work, New Jersey also lost residents to jobs in warmer climates with lower housing costs.
New York State came in at No. 3, for a variety of reasons. Why are New Yorkers leaving at a record pace? As of late, the state is burdened with high taxes and a lack of affordable housing. Income and property taxes are a major irritant. Brutal winters add to the discomfort. Major tech companies are enticing our younger population to leave the state for locations that are less crowded. Just like New Jersey, New Yorkers have family members all over the country, and as we age, there’s a desire to live closer to them. A separate category of now ex-New Yorkers are upstate residents who continue to leave in alarming numbers.
An interesting statistical footnote is that Vermont was the No. 1 state for population growth in 2021. Roughly 68 percent of all moves in the state were inbound. Most of Vermont’s new residents came from nearby states, apparently looking for a quieter life that’s not far from the urban centers of the Northeast. Vermont has a number of highly rated colleges and the lowest crime rate in the country. While I wouldn’t rush to move there, I have met a number of people over the years who like living in the woods, but brag about being able to get to a Broadway show in three hours.

I understand why Vermont did so well, but why does South Dakota rank second in growth? I reached out to a former state senator who explained to me that South Dakota has a 3.5 percent unemployment rate and a number of national companies constantly looking for skilled workers. It’s also considered the second-best state for female entrepreneurs. I also learned that many of its new residents are from California, anxious to get away from the dense population and quality-of-life issues.
Pondering all these statistics is a head-spinning experience, but there are a number of clear trends. Six of the states at the top of the losing-population list have colder climates and large urban areas that are no longer desirable. Many of those residents have family members in warmer and lower-tax states, which is a major inducement to leave.
Despite all of the pros and cons of living in New York, I can easily argue why the good features far outweigh the bad ones. I was born here, and am determined to be a part of the New York experience for as long as possible.

Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column?