Americans Are Migrating To More-Free Conservative States

By John Merline – Investor’s Business Daily

Americans are migrating from less-free liberal states to more-free conservative states, where they are doing better economically, according to a new study published Thursday by the George Mason University’s Mercatus Center.

The “Freedom in the 50 States” study measured economic and personal freedom using a wide range of criteria, including tax rates, government spending and debt, regulatory burdens, and state laws covering land use, union organizing, gun control, education choice and more.

It found that the freest states tended to be conservative “red” states, while the least free were liberal “blue” states.

The freest state overall, the researchers concluded, was North Dakota, followed by South Dakota, Tennessee, New Hampshire and Oklahoma. The least free state by far was New York, followed by California, New Jersey, Hawaii and Rhode Island.

The study also compared its measures of economic and personal freedom to population shifts and income growth, and found that freer states tend to do better on both scores than those less free.

For example, it found a strong correlation between a state’s freedom ranking and migration, which means that Americans are gravitating toward states that have less-intrusive governments.

“People are voting for places with greater freedom,” said William Ruger, a political scientist at Texas State University and one of the co-authors of the study. That was true, he said, even after controlling for things like weather and amenities that might attract people to states independent of these freedom measures.

The study also found that states with more freedom tended to see stronger income growth. This was particularly true in states with more regulatory freedom.

“Adam Smith was right,” Ruger said. “If you have economic freedom you will have economic growth.”

IBD has previously reported that red states saw stronger job growth, lower unemployment and bigger gains in per capita income than blue states, during the economic recovery.

The data also show that blue states have generally become less free over the past decade, while red states have tended to gain additional levels of freedom. The states with the biggest declines in freedom were Wyoming, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Kansas. Those with the biggest gains were Oklahoma, North Dakota, Idaho, Utah and New Mexico.

And contrary to conventional wisdom, the researchers found that conservative states are just as likely as liberal ones to score well on measures of personal freedom, which looked at laws covering marijuana use, gambling, marriage rights, alcohol and tobacco use, gun control, victim-less crimes and the like.

“Personal freedom does not relate straightforwardly to the left-right spectrum at all,” the study noted.

The study’s findings also call into question claims made repeatedly by President Obama during last year’s campaign that tax cuts and deregulation won’t produce growth and prosperity.

“They tell us,” he said in one speech, that “if we just cut more regulations and cut more taxes — especially for the wealthy — our economy will grow stronger.”

“Here’s the problem,” he said. “It doesn’t work. It has never worked.”

But if anything, the data show precisely the opposite.


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The main problem with migration from less free states to states with more freedom is that people tend to bring their faulty voting habits with them. They don’t seem to understand that it was their poor decisions that ruined their previous state and ultimately forced them to move in the first place. If these political migrants want to change their lives they might need to change themselves first!

Joe Burke

My opinion is this, I will no longer tolerate the liberal agenda. I went to Tampa last year as a Delegate to the RNC for Ron Paul. I was there as the Republican wiped their ass with potentially 20 million Ron Paul voters. Yeah good move, they lost the election. There is little difference between the old school Republicans and the Democrats. They ALL want to be in the social elite looking down on the “unwashed masses” knowing that only they know what is good for us. McCain is a prime example. The pot is boiling in this country not just simmering. People are arming themselves and buying guns for their friends and neighbors who can’t afford them. If the uppity leaders in this country don’t wake up they may find themselves being drug out into the streets. There is a civil war brewing in this country and I fear… Read more »


Paul, you are so right about the “morphing”. We are in TN and have California neighbors and they have gotten all involved in our little city politics and now our taxes have doubled within a year and services cut. more city employees hired. It’s a mess!


I think this is true, Republican States are doing a lot better than a democrate run state. Look at those states where democrates run everything, they’re are all in trouble economically. Democrates, as you can see what we have in the white house, love to spend on anything and everything, especially when it’s OUR money they’re spending. I live in IL., in the Chicago suburbs, here in cook county and this state, things couldn’t be much worse. The same politians keep getting in every time, and nothing ever changes, taxes keep going up along with everything else except the pay checks, and they just keep digging and looking for every way to get more from you. This is a sorry county and state.


The only problem I can anticipate with people moving from high tax, high regulation states such as New York, California, New Jersey and others to more limited government, lower tax, less onerous regulation states like Texas, Arizona, etc. , is that a lot of these people will bring their voting preferences with them. Look at what happened to states like Colorado and a few other states that are morphing into the very image of the blue states those residents fled from. I’m not sure how one would secure one’s state from going the way of Colorado, but life-long residents of the existing low tax, reasonable regulation states need to be very aware of the risk a mass migration of blue staters into their states could potentially pose. A beautiful, vibrant, well-run state economic environment can be totally trashed in less than a generation, if those coming into the state insist… Read more »