Issues & Insights
A moving truck, yet another sign of the blue state/red state schism. Photo: By Wjmoore17 at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain (

Despite What You’ve Heard, Red States Handled COVID Much, Much Better Than Blue States

One of the genius elements of the U.S. Constitution was its allowance for competing models of success and failure. It did so by giving states great autonomy under the law while limiting what the federal government can do. In the wake of a massive pandemic and a growing political divide among Americans, we’re seeing that concept work its magic.

Two new reports that look at how the blue and red states and cities have performed during the COVID pandemic show it’s no contest. Those that hewed to the Red State model of lower taxes, less regulation, and respect for the rule of law thrived – while those that followed the “woke” blue-state model, built on socialist top-down control, forced equality, and divisive racial identity politics, suffered.

One of the new studies, by Phil Kerpen of The Committee to Unleash Prosperity, Casey Mulligan of the University of Chicago, and Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation, and published as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research, ranked states by how they performed in three major areas during the pandemic: economics, education, and mortality.

That study, for good reason, has garnered much attention. It shows that red states, in general, beat blue states hands down during the pandemic, largely due to the latter’s dedication to damaging COVID lockdowns.

“Shutting down their economies and schools was by far the biggest mistake governors and state officials made during COVID, particularly in blue states,” said Moore, a co-founder of the Committee To Unleash Prosperity.

New Jersey was the worst-performing state, while neighboring blue-state giant New York was next, ranked 49th. Also flunking out were California, Illinois, and Washington, D.C.

“They had high age-adjusted death rates, they had high unemployment and significant GDP losses, and they kept their schools shut down much longer than almost all other states,” according to the study.

So who did best? Utah, Nebraska, Vermont, Montana, South Dakota – and Florida.

Meanwhile, a second study from the U.S. Census Bureau showed that there has been massive population movement away from large blue-state cities toward red-state cities. 

From July 2020 to July 2021, five major blue-state metropolitan areas hemorrhaged population to red states, as the Census table below shows. Note that the greater New York area was worst, but deep-blue California has three of the top five and actually lost more than New York, overall.


The Census numbers are further confirmed by an annual report from North American Van Lines that rounds out the picture of a demographic tidal wave from blue to red states. It found that the leading outbound states for major moves were Illinois, California, New Jersey, Michigan, and New York.

Where did everyone go? The top states for inbound migration last year were South Carolina, Idaho, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Florida. From blue to red.

“States with a lower cost of living and lower taxes continued to pull Americans from more expensive states in 2021,” the North American Van Lines report said. “With a major shift toward remote work for several occupations, along with continually rising housing costs, people are rapidly moving from the coasts and Midwest to the South and Southwest.”

“The pattern here is clear,” observes the Foundation for Economic Education, regarding the startling demographic shift. “Americans are fleeing highly regulated, highly taxed states. They are flocking to freer states.”

These changes could have long-lasting economic and political impacts. Blue states are likely to get bluer, but also less populous. Red states are likely to get redder, but more populous. The demographic, economic, and political balance between the red and blue is tipping, and fast.

Will the blue states act to stem the human tide?

Perhaps not. California, for instance, wants to slash the workweek for those employed at large companies to 32 hours a week. Assuming many if not most of those are now working 40 hours a week, that’s a possible 20% plunge in productivity.

So expect a new wave of major corporate departures from the no-longer-Golden State that will further wreck its already struggling economy.

As for New York, its leaders seem to think crime-ridden streets and more government spending will do the trick. Sorry, but New York’s losing its wealthiest citizens after years of misrule.

Far-left Democrats have an iron lock on government in Albany, so tax cuts and a crackdown on crime seems highly unlikely. In the meantime, one key group is leaving the state and city of New York in droves: Millionaires.

“New York’s share of the nation’s total millionaire earner population dropped to 9.9%, down from 12.7% as of 2010, the year after the state enacted a supposedly temporary and ultimately permanent higher rate on millionaire earners,” noted E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center for Public Policy think tank.

Good riddance you say? Millionaires pay 40% of taxes in New York. So losing so many to Florida, Texas and other red states is a disaster. All New York will suffer.

Truth is, America is being re-made, moving van by moving van, family by family, as the states’ demographic profiles and political leanings undergo dramatic shifts. It all points to a possible shift in political power toward conservative-leaning red states and away from once-dominant blue states. But how big that shift is remains to be seen.

As we’ve said before, the red-state model works. It has proved itself in good times and bad. Americans, you do have a choice: Red pill, or blue pill. Which is it going to be?

— 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.


  • A right wing “committee” vomits out an obviously biased “study” and you cite it as “proof” that the “flu” was “no big deal” and Democrats are “bad and stuff”. And you think you’re credible. Amazing. Delete away, hacks.

    • Straw man argument. Nothing in there stated that COVID was the flu. The study, while having a right wing bias, shows that blue state reactions to locking down everyone and closing the economy caused more problems. Whereas target lock downs and keeping the economy caused less problems. It does not say that red states were perfect. It acknowledges that excess deaths happened. It only says that excess deaths were lower in red states when adjusting for age. The study shows it is fact.

    • You can argue lots of stuff, but one reality that can’t be argued is that it is true that people are moving from blue states to red states en masse. It’s fact…and for many reasons, not the least of which is red states are generally just better places to live.

  • We know. It would have been even better if we’d followed Sweden’s lead. Then, we’d have all gotten herd immunity 8 months ago.

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