COVID-19 and the riots of the summer of 2020 were eye-opening experiences for many Americans living in blue states. When they realized their politicians were willing to hurt their children and businesses with preposterous lockdowns, and to look the other way when mobs of rioters and looters terrorized the cities, residents looking for peaceful lives began to flee in droves. Now states like Massachusetts, which has watched over 100,000 people leave since the beginning of COVID-19 are sounding the alarm. Janelle Nanos reports for the Boston Globe:
Sometimes, Amanda Hitchins looks out her window in Minnesota and thinks about her “forever home,” back in Massachusetts.
When Hitchins and her husband, Michael,bought a housein North Reading in 2017, the Andover native assumed she’d spend her life there. Then her father died and her mother was diagnosed with dementia and needed to move in with them.
The troubles didn’t stop there. The pandemic hit. Hitchins was furloughed from her job as a speech therapist, andher husband’s job went fully remote. Then they discovered that building a basement apartment for her mom was going to cost more than they could comfortably afford.
The couple looked hardat their options: They’d need a home equity loan and two full-time jobs to pay for the renovation. Hitchins’s job was still in limbo and it had become clear her husband could work from anywhere.
“We had two kids, student loans — the usual — and property taxes in North Reading were bonkers,” said Hitchins, 40. “We were jumping hurdles that we didn’t need to jump.”
So they left, joining a growing exodus of people who have pulled up stakes from Massachusetts since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. From July 2021 through July 2022, some 57,000 more people moved out of the state than into it, one of the highest rates of so-called domestic outmigration in the country. Go back to April 2020, and that number tops 110,000.
“It’s pretty jaw-dropping,” said Mark Melnik, the director of economic and policy research at the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute. These trends, coupled with the aging of the baby boomers, he said, could make it progressively harder for employers to fill jobs.
People have always come and gone, of course, especially in a region with a huge annual influx and exodus of college students. And both births and immigration from abroad have replaced many of those who moved away. But after years of steady growth, and a peak of 7 million residents at the start of this decade, Massachusetts has seen its population shrink for the last three years, down about 50,000 people in all. (Boston, too, saw its population dip in the first year of the pandemic, though 2022 figures are not yet available.)
Now between the rise of remote work, the stifling cost of housing, and a host of other issues from child care to transportation to the new so-called “millionaires tax,” which is making some high earners think twice, there is a growing worry that those losses will only mount in the years to come.
And for a state whose economy relies on brain power, that’s an existential threat.
”We need an all-in approach as far as public policy goes,” Melnik said. “How do you make it easier to live in Massachusetts?”
It’s enough of a concern that Governor Maura Healey made it a central point in her inaugural address last month.
“This is the greatest state in the union,” she said. “But people are leaving at some of the highest rates in the country. Giving up on the Massachusetts story.”
Action Line: The greatest state in the union? Your Survival Guy grew up in Massachusetts, but on my ranking of 2023 Super States, the neighboring “Live Free or Die” state of New Hampshire scores the top spot. No income tax, no sales tax, low regulations, low crime, and America’s best laws for gun owners. Is it any wonder many residents from Massachusetts are fleeing north to freedom? How about Florida, with no income tax, sunny weather, and America’s most famous pro-freedom governor Ron DeSantis? It’s another destination for Massachusetts refugees. If you’re looking for your best America, click here to subscribe to my free monthly Survive & Thrive letter.