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U-Haul truck. Source: © BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en).

America’s U-Haul Revolution

Not everyone in Blue State America is moving to a far healthier Red State. It only seems that way. But enough are doing so to say, without a doubt, it is one of the most significant trends in America today. A revolution of sorts.

It’s long been known in demography and population economics that people leave areas known for authoritarian tyranny, stagnation, stultification, crime and excessive regulation in order to find the opposite somewhere else: economic freedom, dynamism, social diversity and good government.

It’s a big reason why literally hundreds of millions of people around the world have expressed their desire to emigrate to the U.S.

But it’s also true within countries, too.

Amid a backdrop of slow overall population growth, a problem in itself, comes the mass exodus of more than a million Americans moving largely from Blue States to Red States, expressing dissatisfaction with high taxes, rampant crime, lockdowns, vaccine mandates, excessive state government regulations, a politically stifling “woke” culture, and lack of economic opportunity and freedom.

Taken together, from 2010 to 2019, Census data show, the top 10 mostly Blue States lost 845,000 citizens, while the top 10 mostly Red States gained just over 1 million. In short, as the Blue State model crashes, the Red State model soars.

As the American Enterprise Institute’s Mark Perry recently noted in a tweet: “Americans are moving from high-tax, forced-unionism, business-unfriendly blue states like CA and NY with high housing costs to low-tax, right-to-work, economically vibrant, business-friendly red states with lower housing costs like FL and TX.”

This was not just Perry’s opinion. He did the math.

He looked at a set of 14 demographic, economic and regulatory data, in the table below. What jumps out is that it’s clear Red States, often led by moderate Republican governors, outperform the Blue States when it comes to their economic dynamism.

Source: Mark Perry, AEI, Carpe Diem blog

The U.S. Census and Perry are not alone. Yet another measure of the Blue State exodus is the U-Haul Growth Index, a yearly report that gauges the net number of U-Haul trucks leaving and entering a state. It’s a measure of that state’s raw emigration rate.

This year, no surprise here, the top 5 were all Red States — Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee and Arizona. The bottom 5 included California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Alabama.

U-Haul doesn’t mince words in its description of the meaning of its data, saying ” “the U-Haul Growth Index is an effective gauge of how well cities are both attracting and maintaining residents.”

U-Haul also noted that the data would have looked even worse, but they literally ran out of equipment in California, so large was the demand to leave.

So what does all this mean, exactly? First, it can no longer be denied, particularly by the left, that the Blue State model is no longer attractive to Americans. They’re leaving in droves.

But it also portends major shifts in America’s voting clout. If, as recent trends in Florida show, those who move to a Red State are more likely to register with the dominant Republican Party than the Democratic alternative, it means Red States will get redder, while Blue States get bluer.

Because of the Red States’ population growth, their relative clout in future elections should be bigger. They’ll have more seats in the House of Representatives and, assuming it’s a trend across most states, it might turn Congress slightly more to the right of the political spectrum.

It also means that the economic dynamism that often accompanies large influxes of immigrants will make the largest Red States more innovative and economically diverse.

That’s already happening in Texas, which is now challenging California as the engine of national economic growth after California’s first-ever two-year loss in population in 2019 and 2020. The Golden State’s ongoing drain of jobs and businesses will soon diminish its economy to a husk of what it once was.

Right now, there’s a lot of talk, mostly on the left, about a coming “Civil War” in the U.S. as Americans increasingly split into two angry, culturally antagonistic right-left camps. This talk is mirrored by the continuing flood of people moving from Blue to Red.

But the fact is, our country, since its founding, has always used the right to move and relocate in any state (and even earlier, to unsettled territories) as a de facto political pressure release. As we expanded, that right became ever-more precious and useful.

That Americans can vote with their feet, as we noted, is a big thing. Choice is a big thing.

America is changing. But maybe not how the far left thinks. Once-dominant Blue Cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and even mighty New York are, sadly, in decline. These are facts. States and cities that haven’t embraced the poisonous theory that more government, more taxes, more regulation, more bureaucratic control, more woke schools are what we need, are thriving.

It’s not a civil war. Call it the U-Haul Revolution. No shots fired. Just people moving for personal freedom and growth.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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The Issues and Insights Editorial Board has decades of experience in journalism, commentary and public policy.

43 comments

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  • This is how the West was won — People want to be free. They’ll tolerate a lot of foolishness before their inertia is finally overcome, and they leave the familiar behind to hunt for greater freedom and prosperity.

  • A good example would also be the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to Northern industrial cities – more jobs, less racism, vibrant communities. No U-Hauls, though.

  • People in the Red states pay less state and local taxes.

    Nearly ALL the statistics that measure the health and stability of society are worse in the Red states. Measured per 100,000, there are more divorces, more suicides, more juvenile delinquency, more premature deaths, more alcoholism, more narcotic addiction, more diabetes, more car accidents, more house fires, fewer doctors, fewer dentists, and fewer hospitals in the Red states. People there pay less to state and local governments and receive much less.

    People in the Red states receive much more from the federal government, paid for by the federal taxes collected from the Blue states.

    • I’m sure you obtained your stats from a highly reliable source, like HuffPo, Mother Jones, or MSNBC.

    • Generally a matter of population density.

      Rural areas have way less of a population but they still feed you.

      CA wasn’t always a liberal state. And CA was still had the most powerful economy in the union when it was Republican. So, clearly, it’s not just a matter of having progressive politics.

  • I disagree with your assertion that the population movements that you describe will result in red states becoming redder. We have family in Denver. They are seeing Colorado politics steadily moving toward the Progressive™ side of the political spectrum. They believe that this shift is driven by the steady influx of Californians who refuse understand that their Progressive™ political beliefs are the root causes of California’s myriad of woes and to leave these beliefs behind.

    • I’ve seen several pieces lately about Red becoming Redder, saying that the movers are conservative. There’s more to this than political philosophy. People from Blue states are not likely to be a cultural match for Red states particularly in the South. If you like New York or California, you won’t like Georgia or Alabama or the people. We’re just different, culturally. “God, guns and pickup trucks” is a cliche but there’s some truth there.

      • The problem with this myth is they are all moving to liberal areas.

        Texas is a great example, all the growth has been in the cities which, except for Forth Worth, are all liberal.

      • i’m having a house built in SC, we are leaving upstate NY, builder has family up here, said there are more rednecks in upstate NY than SC, we don’t vote democrat & hope to make SC redder

  • Oh, there is a civil war and many on the right have been talking about it for years. Our Cold Civil War has been going on for decades with primarily the left fighting against the American Republic our Founders established. Now it is forcing out those who can no longer tolerate the Dem/Leftist tyranny ruling the state they lived in. That won’t end the Cold Civil War and if they get enough states to capture DC and rule the nation, what good will it be living in a red state?
    What if enough leftist move too, enough to pollute a state with leftist votes?
    Europe is being lost to Islam as it gradually increases it influence by birth rate taking over the societies.
    The Left does not procreate as much but they are great at indoctrination is so many ways. Is the right moving aggressively to address this? Hell, Republicans can’t even address the Democrats’ political prisoners in DC being tortured with solitary confinement. Ted Cruz dishonestly calls them domestic terrorists! Has he had the guts to visit them? Or speak out against their unjust treatment? No, he is too busy giving aid to America’s leftist domestic enemies with lies about their political prisoners.
    Leftist tyranny is relentless. They work continuously to rig our elections and indoctrinate our kids in schools across our country.
    Running away from it will not defeat it. The Cold Civil War rages on whether you want to admit it or not.
    We had to go to war to against the Democrat Party to end slavery. Think it will take any less to stop the Democrat Party from achieving the tyranny over all of us they so lust for? Hopefully, but don’t relax for a second. They don’t.

  • To see how much your own city and state either struggle or thrive with domestic migration, here’s an exercise to play.

    Go to the U-Haul site and then use the calculator to estimate the cost of a 26 foot rental truck from your city to any destination you choose on any given date in the future. Get the quote and write it down. Now, reverse the trip using the same sized rental truck on the same requested date.

    Current data shows that it is between 2.5X and 4X more expensive to exit a Blue State than it is to move from a Red State into the same Blue State.

  • The problem is these people leave a blue state and move to the rural red states and they want to change our politics to be blue. They are not wanted go back where you came from.

  • Estimate of Gov. Newsome’s promise to provide universal healthcare will double some taxes. Expect a further flood out of the state of the productive and a mass immigration of illegals.

      • from what i am seeing in my blue state – the people that are leaving because of “politics” are really leaving cause they can’t hack it financially. They are all total whack-doodle conspiracy theorist can’t keep down a job tin foil Trumpians. My uncle moved to Arizona never held a job in his life. He leached off is wife and family for 30 years, but somehow Trump is his hero Democrats are the enemy.

        My friends who left because their job moved to a red state are taking their far left politics with them. Either way, i still support them financially because my state sends more tax dollars to those red states because they have low state taxes that i end up subsidizing to make up the difference.

      • @junkee1 Well I’m on the opposite end. I make top 10% salary in PA but will vote Republican because Democrats think I’m an entitled white male supremacist.

        And my success had nothing to do with the allnighters and straight A’s I achieved in high school and college, followed by a decade of risky job moves to get where I’m at now. They assume this was all handed to me and that I should be taxed to death.

  • I’ve lived in the South all my life (except for one miserable year in Missouri) and have lived in the Nashville area since 1987. The number of blue state emigres is distressing because many of them insist on bringing their failed blue state politics with them. It’s bad enough that they are running up housing costs beyond what many here can afford, but how long before my beloved Nashville looks more like NYC or San Francisco?

  • This is a great example of correlation is not causation. For anyone scratching their head, that means that just because two things correlate does not necessarily mean that one causes the other. I’m a progressive voter moving to Florida because it has year round sunny weather and nice beaches. I’ve holding my nose over its absurd “free state” claims and noxious bigotry friendly, big lie believing majority politics. You can’t determine motivation by the data presented.

  • I exist in hippie Oregon. I say exist simply because you cannot live in Oregon. The tyrants won’t allow you to be happy. Oregon (particularly Portland, Salem, and Eugene) is a repository of filth. People literally walk around with dead eyes and no hope because of their addiction to drugs and liberalism.

    Don’t believe the big lie that Oregon is a green, clean, tolerant, and organized place. It’s not.

    I can’t wait to leave this mess of a state.

  • “people leave areas known for authoritarian tyranny, stagnation, stultification, crime and excessive regulation in order to find the opposite somewhere else: economic freedom, dynamism, social diversity and good government.”

    for “social diversity” as that phrase is used today: NOT.

    For social homogeneity and respect for our heritage and traditions: YES.

    • Agree. Could care less about culture or diversity of restaurants, which at this point seems to be the only thing high cost of living blue cities have to offer.

      Remote work has changed things – now for me it’s about achieving the highest possible ratio of salary to cost of living.

      What are high COL blue areas going to offer high income people who have the option of living in cheaper areas? Something they surely need to think about in the long run.

  • The article is persuasive. It is what I want to believe. I can understand why sensible people are fleeing NY and CA.

    The author notes that Alabama is also seeing out-migration. No explanation is provided. What does Alabama have in common with NY and CA?

  • Please explain why slow overall population growth is “a problem in itself”? Is it because our current economic system, which is focused solely on continuous “growth” is an unsustainable Ponzi scheme?

  • The analysis is meaningless without consideration of age. Most of the movement from cold states to warm states has been by retiring Baby Boomers. That’s the same as it was for their parents. I think age and retirement have far more to do with the migration than any of the so-called “freedom” factors in the charts.

    • True – but will that turn these blue cities less blue?

      Doesn’t make sense that people escape a state after seeing what years of unchecked progressivism can do, only to vote the same way. Gives me little hope for this country as a whole.

  • The Blue states won’t acknowledge that their formula is a LOSER until they are upside down totally bankrupt and need to be bailed out by the Fed to pay their bills.

  • My counter to leaving would be weather, not politics, but California (which my wife and I just left after 70+ years each) refutes that one. My counter argument to seeking freedom as a reason, is prohibition, not alcohol, but thought (toe the Trump line or shut up) and control (no abortion, no deviants -we support choice). Nothing involving masses of humans is so simple.

  • Exit polls every 4 years show an even 50/50 split between R and D votes among upper class ($400k+ salary)

    Over 70% of people who make under $50k a year vote Democrat.

    Remote work has changed things – high income workers no longer have to live in the high population density areas that are typically Democrat and high cost of living.

    This year I got a remote tech job based in CA. I had the option of moving there. It was a no brainer to stay on the east coast.

  • Unfortunately, many of these people fleeing blue states maintain their liberal politics. I live in Colorado and our once free state has been destroyed by liberals (from California). Housing prices are through the roof and Denver voters approve every liberal policy that is proposed. You would think that these people would learn… this is what happens when you vote for liberal Democrats. It’s a sad state of affairs.

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