Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

State Policy Components of Interstate Migration in the United States

Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

State Policy Components of Interstate Migration in the United States

Article excerpt

This article examines the effects of state policy on net interstate migration. Using Ordinary Least Squares regression on aggregate cross-sectional data, state policy factors are found to be significant determinants of the net interstate migration levels of the states. In addition, two previously untested variables, state ideology and an investment-consumption ratio, are found to be significant. The analysis indicates that states with low taxation levels, high investment-consumption ratios, and more liberal ideologies relative to other states, tend to experience more population growth via interstate migration. The results suggest that a consumer-- voter model explains a significant portion of the variation in aggregate migration behavior.

Do components of state policy determine interstate migration patterns? Public choice theory suggests that indeed they should. Individuals will move from one jurisdiction to another in an effort to maximize their utility derived from public policies. This argument was originally presented by Tiebout (1956) to explain why numerous local jurisdictions in a federal system would offer a variety of options in which consumer-voters could relocate to match their policy preferences better. The framework has been expanded to state-level migration (Althaus and Schachter 1983; Dye 1990), in which citizens move across state lines to increase utility from public service provision and tax policies.

The consumer-voter model of migration is an important assumption of the arguments in favor of the decentralization of many public policy areas (Dye 1990). The underlying premise is that the more flexibility states are given by the national government, the greater may be the variations in state policies from which consumer-voters can choose. Without external coercion from the national government to provide uniform policies across states, states will diverge in their policy offerings as they try to meet internal preferences (to retain citizens) and compete for new taxpayers. Since consumer-voter preferences vary, policy variation across states allows citizens to meet these different policy preferences better. Furthermore, with the recent devolution of responsibility in substantive policy arenas such as welfare and the environment, it is clear that the consumer-voter model of interstate migration carries both theoretical and practical implications. With between 2.6 and 3.3 percent of the United States population migrating to a different state each year from 1989 to 1994 (Hansen 1995: A-3), the question becomes: Does the consumer-voter model explain the aggregate behavior of a significant proportion of American society?

State policy components of net interstate migration are the topic of this article. The purpose is to add an additional empirical layer to the argument that state-level policy variation is a determinant of interstate migration patterns. Table I demonstrates that net interstate migration varies considerably across the states.' Using aggregate, cross-sectional data, the study builds from the assumptions of the consumer-voter model to propose two additional factors to explain variation in net interstate migration. First, it introduces the developmental-redistributive policy typology (Peterson, Rabe, and Wong 1989) to test whether state policy variation in the proportion of policy expenditures on developmental policy with diffuse benefits relative to expenditures for redistributive policies, with diffuse costs and targeted benefits, influences net migration levels in the states. Second, the models tested include a non-fiscal policy indicator, state ideology. This variable accounts for variation in policy preferences that are not easily captured by functional expenditure levels. The results of the study reveal that both of these new variables play a significant role in net interstate migration and the aggregate behavior of the consumer-voter. In addition, the study demonstrates that net migration is negatively associated with taxation levels, a finding that is inconsistent with the results of previous scholarship. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.