Seemingly overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic launched millions of Americans into a massive work-from-home experiment, with roughly 7 in 10 workers who could work remotely doing so in May 2020.
But from a bird’s eye view, the way Americans moved in 2020 looks pretty much the same as it has for years. More people moved out of the biggest cities than moved in, while smaller cities and suburbs grew — especially in Arizona, Florida and Texas.
But this is Detroit, which has the highest effective property tax rate of any major city in America, at 3.58 percent of market value. If the tax man assesses your house at its full renovation cost, this would add $537 to your monthly mortgage bill, bringing it to $1,295.
That hefty charge might not look too bad if the quality of local government services is top shelf. As Charles Tiebout observed in his classic 1956 article on local public finance, people “vote with their feet” and shop for their preferred combination of services and prices among various localities. Some happily buy at the public services equivalent of Neiman Marcus, others at Walmart.
From public safety to education to infrastructure, however, Detroit is no Neiman Marcus. To be charitable, let’s suppose the city’s services are on par with those of other Michigan cities, where the average property tax rate is 1.54 percent. Elsewhere, then, a comparable $180,000 investment comes with a monthly mortgage bill of just $989, or $306 a month less than in Detroit.
New York’s top business leaders are gearing up for a potential mass exodus as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers prepare to raise their taxes.
With the state budget set to increase the personal income tax on the wealthiest New Yorkers as well as hiking corporate taxes, some executives who fled the city for Florida temporarily due to coronavirus pandemic lockdowns are considering permanent relocation, according to business leaders briefed on the matter.
Wealthy business leaders who have historically resisted moving at least some of their resources to Florida or other less-taxed states explained to CNBC that they are now seriously reconsidering as working from home becomes the norm, allowing more flexibility.
Recent research also tells us something about just who the urban emigrants have been. They haven’t been middle-aged people with families. For the most part, they haven’t had middle-class incomes. They have been young people, unattached and economically stressed. Among Americans age 18-29, Pew reported, 11 percent said they had moved in 2020 for virus-related reasons. Within the low-income population cohort, the figure was 9 percent — roughly twice as high as the overall U.S. number.
But even these figures are misleading. Very few of these movers were uprooting themselves and striking out for new locales. Many of them were college students whose campuses had closed down due to virus concerns and who were moving back in with their parents on a temporary basis. In June, a full 61 percent of those who had relocated for pandemic reasons had moved in with one or more family members. In November, the number was 42 percent.
The state lost nearly 80,000 people in the year that ended July 2020, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data. That’s 22,000 more than were lost the year before and the seventh consecutive loss of population in the past 10 years. Illinois led the nation in population decline for the past decade at 255,000.
Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, told the Economic Club of Chicago on Wednesday the state has been losing population for years. Without details, he said the state needs to support small and big businesses. He also said leaders need to unite on messaging.
Real-estate veterans and hedge-fund executives believe a seismic shift is under way, one that is moving vast amounts of Wall Street wealth from New York to South Florida. For the past several years, Wall Street has been colonizing the Sunshine State, attracted to more favorable tax policies and sunnier climes. And the momentum is only accelerating amid the pandemic.
While prices are under pressure in New York amid an oversupply of high-end condominiums on the market, price tags in Palm Beach and Miami appear to be on an unstoppable upward trajectory.
Last week, private-equity executive Scott Shleifer, a co-founder of Tiger Global Management, paid over $120 million for an oceanfront mansion in Palm Beach, setting a price record for the state. New Jersey hedge-fund executive David Tepper is also in contract to buy a $73 million house on the ocean nearby, The Wall Street Journal reported.
While he maintains a $238 million home in New York and another luxury condo in Chicago, Citadel founder Ken Griffin has also been on an acquisition spree in South Florida, spending hundreds of millions of dollars to buy land in Palm Beach and Miami, and is opening an office in Miami.
Sixteen mostly coastal and Rust Belt states lost population from July 2019 to July 2020, according to the Census Bureau’s annual population survey, and Illinois, West Virginia, New York, Connecticut, Mississippi and Vermont have shrunk since 2010. At the same time, many low-tax Sun Belt states have continued to attract newcomers.
The pandemic may have contributed to population losses in some states as city dwellers with means escaped to rental and vacation homes. Foreign immigration also fell after President Trump suspended new green cards in April. Some states, especially in the Northeast, experienced thousands of more deaths than usual due to Covid.
But the bureau’s annual population estimate captures only the first few months of the pandemic when migration generally declined as most people hunkered down. Geographic mobility increased over the summer and fall, and the pandemic seems to have accelerated migration flows that have been occurring for years. States such as New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania and California have counted on foreign immigration offsetting net out-migration. That didn’t happen this year, so many states lost population for the first time in decades.
United Van Lines, the largest moving company in the United States, keeps track of its clients’ migration among the 48 contiguous states. It publishes that data each January, comparing the number of inbound moves to outbound moves for each state. As those who use United Van Lines are individuals and companies using large moving trucks, this data is only a subset of all moves, but the National Movers Study still provides a targeted look at the types of interstate migration patterns we can expect to see in government-issued data once it becomes available.