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Another Great Migration? Americans are fleeing oppressive blue states and settling in freer red states like Texas and Florida


A recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau, supported by a U-Haul survey, shows that records numbers of Americans are leaving “blue states” like California, New York, and Illinois, but that “red states” like Florida, Texas, and others are gaining similarly large numbers of new residents.

Quick Facts

This is hardly surprising, but it is stark to see the raw numbers. After almost two years of failed COVID-19 mandates and the loss of freedoms, it is understandable that hundreds of thousands of Americans are moving to where conservative policies promote freedom of speech and religion, and economic incentives like lower tax rates produce greater financial freedom as well. 

These numbers tell a clear story: Americans are fleeing localities that feature high taxes and political schemes to restrict religious liberty and where you can’t drink sweet tea through a plastic straw without getting in trouble. 

The U-Haul Growth Index, an annual consumer report that determines growth by assessing “the net gain of one-way U-Haul trucks entering a state versus leaving in a calendar year, has found that the state of California remained the top state for out-migration in 2021. In fact, so many people have sought to leave the progressive state that the report found that there aren’t enough U-Haul trucks to meet the demands of Californians who say they want to live in other states where individual liberty is a higher priority. Analysts believe this is partly because U-Haul “ran out of inventory to meet customer demand for outbound equipment.”

In 2021, Texas and Florida were the two biggest destinations for those migrating within the U.S., according to the U-Haul Growth Index. Texas alone made up “50.2% of all one-way U-Haul traffic” in 2021, and the rest of the top five were rounded out by Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Arizona, respectively. All five states are currently led by governors who have rejected the kind of strict COVID-19 measures imposed by states dominated by Democrats, such as California and New York.

Some of the politically opportunistic policies implemented by the latter states seem to mirror authoritarian practices imposed by nations like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and even many of the European Union nations, who have implemented a “COVID-19 Pass” that acts as a prerequisite for anyone who wants to access cafes, bars, restaurants, and even long-distance transport. Many Americans are picking up on this and see the similarities between these measures and Bill DeBlasio’s “strictest in the nation” vaccine mandate in New York City.

Additionally, United Van Lines (UVL), the nation’s largest moving company, which assisted 125,000 Americans moving between states last year, determined in a study that 62 percent of Florida interstate moves consisted of people moving into the Sunshine State, versus only 38 percent moving out.

U-Haul found that other red states had very high move-in to move-out ratios, including South Dakota (69 to 31 percent), South Carolina (63 to 37 percent), and West Virginia (63 to 37 percent). UVL company spokesperson Eily Cummings said that it was also “the first time in the 45-year history of our study that West Virginia ranked so high. This seems to be part of a trend of Americans moving from areas of high population density to areas of lower population density.”

In contrast, the six states with the nation’s worst move-out numbers include New Jersey (71 percent moving out), Illinois (67 percent), New York (63 percent), Connecticut, (60 percent), California (59 percent), and Michigan (58 percent). Among liberal-leaning states, only Vermont posted an exceedingly high move-in rate (74 percent versus 26 percent who left).

President Ronald Reagan once encouraged Americans to “vote with your feet,” and many across the country today are heeding his advice.

These numbers may just be cold hard facts on the U.S. Census Bureau’s report, but they tell a cultural story, and that story is this: Americans yearn to live free. 

Freedom, after all, is our national inheritance — we are nation founded by intrepid explorers who crossed oceans and mountains to carve out a life free from the boot of monarchial tyranny and petty serfdom. We are the inheritors of generations who settled one of the largest countries in the history of the globe in one of the shortest periods of time. We are descended from risk-takers. And these these numbers show that risk-mitigation is a miserable way to live. California, New York, and Illinois all represent the same, tired, myopic way of approaching the COVID-19 endemic: More masks, more mandates, more nonsense. And apparently — unsurprisingly — hundreds of thousands of Americans are fed up with that. 

People don’t typically uproot, leave their long-established homes and communities, and move to a completely new place on a whim. It often comes following a devastating event or untenable situation, as was seen clearly in the 20th century when Okies and other Midwesterners abandoned their drought-devastated farms during the Great Depression and went to California in hopes of finding work and when millions of black Americans chose to leave the Jim Crow South and all its soul-depleting segregationist policies in a Great Migration north to find freedom and better-paying jobs.

The latest migration numbers lend credence to the fact that a significant portion of the country does not have an appetite for the oppression of individual liberty, high taxes, mandates, and other examples of government intrusion and control being increasingly pursued by blue-state America. As such, Americans are leaving for what they consider to be not just greener pastures but freer ones.

The bottom line is this: We should be thankful that, for now, here in America we have a federal system which secures states the rights to govern differently. Our states have often been called a “laboratory of democracy.” Well, here in 2021, we got some lab results back on which policies are working, and those results are fairly conclusive: Freedom wins.  

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