Illinois’ migration and economic crises revealed in 2014 U-Haul pricing

Illinois’ migration and economic crises revealed in 2014 U-Haul pricing

Americans once stampeded into Illinois in search of opportunity. Now, the opposite happens.

Why does it cost so much more to rent a U-Haul truck driving from Chicago to Indianapolis than the other way around? Demand.

Illinois has a domestic migration problem that is verging on a crisis. Illinoisans are increasingly voting with their feet against the state’s status quo by moving to other states, and taking their jobs and tax dollars with them. In 2014, 95,000 more people left Illinois for other states than moved to Illinois from other states – an all-time record high. This was a massive no-confidence vote in the state, capping off a net loss of 675,000 people in the last decade and 1.36 million people in the last two decades.


This explosion in exodus was reflected in the rental prices of U-Haul trucks. Although U-Haul released a report on June 3 showing Chicago had the second-most one-way destination moves of any U.S. city in 2014, that report only looks at one side of the equation: moves into Chicago. It leaves out the other side of the equation: moves out of Chicago. There was far more demand to leave Chicago than to enter Chicago in 2014, as reflected in rental prices for moves between the cities.

For example, looking at rentals between Chicago and Indianapolis for July 2014 shows there was massively more demand to leave Chicago for Indianapolis than to leave Indianapolis for Chicago. That demand was reflected in a higher price to drive a U-Haul truck from Chicago to Indianapolis than vice-versa.

It cost twice as much to drive a large U-Haul truck from Chicago to Indianapolis than from Indianapolis to Chicago.


The price differences were more significant between Chicago and Sun Belt cities that have a more favorable business environment. One example is Atlanta. The price to move from Chicago to Atlanta was nearly four times the price to move in the opposite direction.


Chicago didn’t lose the moving war with every city, though. Like Chicago, Los Angeles struggles with debt, pensions and joblessness, and has a terrible business climate. Chicago maintained a slight pricing edge on Los Angeles.


However, the most extreme price difference were for moves between Chicago and the cities of Texas. For large truck sizes, it was more than four times more expensive to leave Chicago for Austin than to leave Austin for Chicago.


Illinoisans believe they deserve better, which is why they are increasingly voting to move to a state where they find better opportunities. A primary objective of state policy should be to make the economic reforms necessary for this migration crisis to end. We will know that has happened when these one-way prices are the same for travel both into and out of Chicago.

Americans once stampeded into Illinois in search of opportunity. Now, the opposite happens. In a Gallup poll from 2014, people who planned to leave Illinois made clear their top reason why. They wanted a state with more work and business opportunities.

Illinois has tremendous natural advantages as a business, transportation and agricultural hub, and the potential to grow a strong technology sector. However, multiple layers of economic, budgetary and migration indicators have proven that state leadership has failed Illinoisans. These indicators of failure include:

A one-sided report from U-Haul cannot change the reality, or even the perception, of the true problems Illinois faces. These problems are real, and demand structural reforms to both the system of government in Illinois, and Illinois’ tax and economic regulatory burden. Illinois’ political leadership can move the ball in the direction of reform by taking up Gov. Bruce Rauner’s common-sense proposals, which include:

  • Term limits for career politicians
  • Fair maps for drawing new legislative districts
  • Frivolous lawsuit reform to end Illinois’ reputation as a judicial hellhole
  • Economic reforms including a property-tax freeze and workers’ compensation reform

Failed leadership in Springfield has stalled, dodged and equivocated for long enough. Making the Land of Lincoln a beacon state once again means taking on true reform.

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