Illinois’ rich millennials are moving to other states

Illinois’ rich millennials are moving to other states

Youthful wealth, energy and talent that could help Illinois recover is leaving the state at the nation’s second-highest rate. State leaders’ thirst for new taxes will make the problem worse.

Successful millennials are much more interested in moving out of Illinois than into Illinois, according to a recent study.

SmartAsset recently looked at population shifts for those younger than 35 with adjusted gross incomes of at least $100,000, and found Illinois was losing these successful young adults at a faster pace than every other state except New York. Illinois lost 2,248 of these millennials while New York lost 4,867 from 2015 to 2016.

They were mostly moving to California, which gained 3,597 young residents. Washington, Texas, Colorado and Florida rounded out the top five destinations. Other top states were coastal or sunny, with the exception of landlocked Tennessee ranking No. 9 for drawing rich millennials.

Illinois’ losses are not surprising given that the state has lost population every year for the past five years. Each day 313 people on average choose to leave Illinois.

Two polls conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute in 2016 and University of Illinois at Springfield in 2018 both found about half of Illinoisans considered moving out of the state. The poll last year found two of three Illinoisans younger than 35 considered a move. When asked why, the top response in both polls was high taxes – outranking reasons such as corruption, government dysfunction, bad weather and job prospects.

Rich millennials’ outmigration patterns hurt Illinois. When they move, communities lose current and future leadership, innovation and wealth. What they leave behind is a shrinking, aging population trying to shoulder an ever-increasing tax burden.

Instead of creating an environment where affluent millennials want to stay and raise families, state leaders continue to aggravate the top reason residents consider a move: taxation. Illinois lawmakers just passed 20 new or increased tax and fee hikes as they passed a record $40 billion spending bill and $45 billion infrastructure bill.

Even with all that new taxation, the fiscal year 2020 budget is as much as $1.3 billion out of balance.

The millennial flight numbers are more than three years old, so newer estimates are unlikely to show better news, especially because the state in 2017 raised the income tax rate to 4.95% from 3.75%. With Gov. J.B. Pritzker and state lawmakers pushing a repeal of the state constitution’s flat tax protection to be replaced by a progressive state income tax, expect more pain for taxpayers and then greater harm to the state’s economy.

Then expect even more of Illinois’ future to move away.

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