Young workers, public policy failures are driving Illinois’ out-migration

Young workers, public policy failures are driving Illinois’ out-migration

New poll indicates that younger workers want to flee the state the most, and Illinois’ high-tax, anti-growth policies are encouraging them to do so.

Out-migration from Illinois is nothing new, but new polling from the Paul Simon Institute takes a fresh look at which Illinoisans want to leave and why. The poll shows it is working-age adults who most want to leave the state, and the top reason is high taxes, with bad weather in a distant second. Policy leaders have made Illinois unattractive through high taxes, corrupt and inefficient government, lack of jobs, and poor educational opportunities.

According to David Yepsen, the director of the Paul Simon Institute:

There are lots of reasons why people want to leave. … Not much can be done about the weather but policy makers can do something about perceptions of the quality of services, tax competitiveness, tax fairness and educational and job opportunities.

The new poll found that 47 percent of registered voters in Illinois would like to leave and 20 percent reported they are likely to leave in the next year. These findings are in line with 2014 Gallup polling, which showed that 50 percent of Illinoisans wanted to leave the state and 19 percent said they were likely to leave within the next year.

The Paul Simon Institute polling also reflects United States Census Bureau data, which confirm the severity and worsening of Illinois’ out-migration problem. Illinois has lost 700,000 people on net to other states over the last decade. And in recent years, the outflow has accelerated to record rates. In 2014 Illinois had a net loss of 95,000 people, the second-worst year on record. And then in 2015, the most recent year of data, Illinois sustained a net loss of 105,000 people, the worst year on record. Illinois is losing people at a rate of one person every five minutes.

illinois outmigration

And contrary to the assumption it is mostly retirees leaving the state to look for sunnier weather, the Paul Simon Institute poll also reveals it is primarily working-age adults and millennials most interested in departing. Majorities in all age groups in their prime working years indicated in the poll they would rather leave. Perhaps surprisingly, the only age group in which a majority preferred to stay in the state is those 66 and older.

Among those under age 35, 57 percent want to leave. For those who are ages 35-50, 58 percent want to leave. And for those who are 51-65, 52 percent want to leave.

illinois outmigration

The Paul Simon Institute poll gives a snapshot of how working-age adults feel about leaving, and migration data back up the poll’s findings. Labor market data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that from 2005-2015, hundreds of thousands of working-age Illinoisans dropped out of the state’s labor force by leaving Illinois altogether.

And millennials are leading the exodus. New enriched data from the Internal Revenue Service show it is millennials leaving fastest for other states. The enriched IRS data provide age group migration information for the three tax years contained in the 2011-2014 tax data files, and show taxpayers under 35 years old are leaving fastest. The next-fastest group is taxpayers ages 35-44, followed by taxpayers ages 45-54. Illinoisans are leaving in their prime working years, and the younger they are, the faster they’re getting out.

illinois outmigration

The Paul Simon Institute’s poll shows results completely in line with actual migration records. The poll shows that the desire to leave Illinois is widespread, and migration records indicate that Illinoisans are leaving at record rates. The poll further reveals that younger people especially want to leave, and according to migration records, millennials and younger workers are in fact leaving fastest.

Nearly 27 percent of those who would like to leave cite Illinois’ taxes as the primary reason. Approximately 15 percent indicated the state’s government is the main driver of their desire to leave, and another 13 percent indicate they would leave for better job or educational opportunities in other states. This coincides with labor market data that show Illinois is experiencing significant workforce dropout because people are leaving the state. The poll also shows that weather is the main factor for roughly 16 percent of those who would like to leave Illinois.

Illinois is experiencing a vicious cycle in which bad policy and fiscal recklessness drive out-migration, and heavy out-migration makes the state’s financial situation even worse. The state needs to reform its policies to include limited taxation, a jobs and growth agenda, and good governance that restores confidence in state institutions. Anything less will fail to stem the flow of Illinoisans leaving the Land of Lincoln.

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