Public Assets Institute > Policy Areas > Vermont Taxes > Fun with data: see where Americans are moving

Fun with data: see where Americans are moving

Forbes Magazine has a new interactive map on its website that has been getting a certain amount of attention. The map shows all of the counties in the United States, and it’s linked to IRS migration data. Every year, the IRS tracks where people file their tax returns. There are some limitations to the data, but generally they provide a good overview of how the population is moving around the country. With the Forbes interactive map, users can click on a county and color-coded lines show the migration to and from that county. The width of the line changes with the volume of traffic, but it’s difficult to discern differences.

The IRS doesn’t just track the movement of people; it also follows the money by including the total gross adjusted income that migrants report. That makes it possible to determine whether the people moving into a county or state have more income than the people moving out. That was the analysis that Forbes did with the data, and then highlighted the counties where it said the rich were moving. The subtext of the Forbes analysis was that rich people are moving to places where they pay low or no income taxes.

I’m not sure Forbes’s analysis holds up. For example, a lot of the migrants to some of top Florida counties cited by the magazine came from other counties in Florida. Those people clearly didn’t move to avoid income taxes.

It’s possible to play with the map without reading through all Forbes’s tips on the best places to move if you’re trying to avoid taxes. One thing that’s fun to do is click on various Florida counties to see how many people left and where they went. On the theory that people move in search of lower taxes, it would follow these former Florida residents would go to New Hampshire or Alaska or Nevada or some other state without income taxes.

Check it out. Here’s the map.

Posted by Jack Hoffman on June 29, 2010 at 4:04 pm

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