Public Assets Institute > Blog > Perception and reality about Vermont migration

Perception and reality about Vermont migration

Young people and rich people are moving to Vermont.

If this surprises you, you aren’t alone. You’re more likely to hear that the young and the wealthy are fleeing Vermont for better opportunities. Your neighbors bought a condo and moved to Florida. Your daughter got a good job and took off for Chicago.

So yes, people move out of Vermont. But here’s what else is happening: They’re moving in.

About the same number of young people move to Vermont as leave the state each year. That’s true of high-income people too.

These facts come from two recent reports by Public Assets Institute. The first, Migration update: Most Vermonters stay put analyzes migration into and out of Vermont, using new Internal Revenue Service data that includes age and income information. The second, 10 states account for most Vermont migration, looks at 20 years of migration data that tracks the states where most migrants come from and go to.

Both reports show that most people of all ages and walks of life stay put—only about 3 to 4 percent of Vermonters move out of state in any year.

And not only is the number about the same for people leaving and those arriving. The most popular destinations for Vermonters moving out are also the states most new Vermonters come from. The top four are Vermont’s three bordering states—Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York—and Florida.

As for high-income people, those with annual incomes of $200,000 or more, the IRS data show that more of them moved into Vermont than out every year the data have been collected—2012, 2013 and 2014. For people with low incomes, more leave every year than move in.

We don’t know why there is such a disconnect between Vermonters’ perception and the reality about who’s coming and who’s going.

Maybe it’s because we all know people who have decided to leave. They’re our friends, relatives, co-workers, and neighbors. But we don’t know the newcomers.

Maybe it’s a question of scale. We might know 5 or 10, or even 20, people who left; that feels like a big out-migration. But these numbers are a tiny percentage of the 15,000 who come and go each year.

Maybe it’s that we expect young Vermonters to go explore while they’re still unencumbered.  And it’s true that those under 26 are more likely to move than other age groups.  But the data also show that this migration is not one way. Nearly as many young people from other places come to explore Vermont.

People move for a lot of reasons including taking a job, being near family, or retiring. Maybe instead of dwelling on who’s not staying, policymakers should focus on why thousands like Vermont so much that they’ve pulled up stakes and relocated here. That might provide some insight into where the state should invest its resources to make Vermont an even more attractive place to live, work, and play.

Posted by Stephanie Yu on June 10, 2016 at 3:35 pm

5 Responses to “Perception and reality about Vermont migration”

  1. Ray Rodrigues says:

    And what about the perception that most nearby houses have not sold for years, so many people are still holding on to their homes feeling that it’s too difficult to try to sell or else take a loss?

    Do your migration data hold for the entire state, or is the Burlington area driving the data?

  2. Kate Robinson says:

    Much to be learned as the research and data gathering continue: Is it the less-skilled young and do the young who leave and return come back with greater skills? Is there a survey that documents why the young leave? Some might go to get graduate degrees (or finish a college or training degree) and then return to go to work. If so, what jobs are they taking? As you say, Paul, it might help guide the state in making it more attractive to young people if we knew what jobs returnees are taking. (Both my stepchildren left for some years, then returned with more skills–and, not least, direction–and are settled here.) On the other end of the scale, are people who spend 6 months-plus in Florida or other southern states but still return for the good months here counted as emigrants? While they may escape Vermont taxes, they are still contributing to the economy while here by spending money here.

  3. Pat Robins says:

    But think what a win win it would be if most of the retirees with Vermont income tax bills over $25000 a year didn’t hi tail It to a favorable tax state like Florida as they certainly do. The inheritance tax is the most frequently mentioned motivator. The 6 months and a day crowd! Most of my career long friends. What a tax loss to Vermont.

  4. Scott Garren says:

    I had a conversation with a young adult from Windsor County who felt that his cohorts were fleeing the state everywhere except Chittenden County. It there any breakdown by county? It feels like we are falling into the same trap as the Dems nationally who try to sell the idea that top-level economic statistics show they are managing the economy successfully where indeed the success is only being felt by a few at the top. We should not be complacent about demographics if UVM grads are staying in the Burlington area but young adults are fleeing everywhere else.

  5. Stephanie Yu says:

    These are all great questions and worth exploring. There are county level data available and that may be the next step in our analysis—to explore what is happening in Chittenden County and whether that differs from the other counties in the state.

    Overall the data show that about the same numbers of young and rich people move into and out of Vermont, and most years those moving into Vermont had more income than those moving out. As for home values, it’s difficult to track who might want to move but can’t.

    Looking at the data over the long term, the remarkable thing is that the migration both in and out has held relatively steady. Regarding the estate tax, the same number of individuals over 55 years old move in and out of Vermont. In general, migration has little impact on state tax revenue.

    The IRS data are based on the state that the filer declares as the primary residence for a given year. If that’s different from the previous or succeeding year, the filer is considered a migrant.

    While the IRS does not track the reasons for moving, there are some sources that look at this through surveys. UVM’s Roots Migration Project took a look at some of the reasons people come and go, with a focus on people who went to high school in Vermont. One of the things the report found is that often people do not have just one reason for moving. Here is the link: