Now You Can Pick Winners and Losers

Enough introduction to this new blog already! Let’s jump into some big data! Big data from the Internal Revenue Service no less.

The IRS produces an annual file that tracks the location of your tax return address year-over-year. Origin communities in 2013 tax filings are paired with destination communities in 2014 filings (latest data available.) The combinations are mind-boggling when you consider all possible state-to-state moves, international moves, and within-state moves. That’s precisely why these trends are so under-reported!

Let’s focus first on state-to-state moves. Interstate domestic migration encompasses all the “internal migration” of interstate movers within the US. (Of course, some inter-state movers are recent international in-migrants but that’s a story for another day.) There are 2,500 possible interstate moves, counting the District of Columbia, by (51 – 1) = 50, to subtract the origin state, and 50 x 50 = 2500, to tally all possible origins times all possible destinations.

So, who’s the biggest loser? I hate to say it but my state, New York, is the biggest loser by a long shot. If we assume that a tax return reflects a household with 2.5 persons on average, New York loses about 210,810 households annually. That number is offset by 146,348 households that move into the state from other states, so the net loss is about 64,462 households per year, or 177 every day. Those households represent 443 persons, so the net population loss about 443 every day. (Again, international migration which offsets that to a degree is a topic for another day.)

Now, as promised, you can play with the data. This visualization allows you to pick a state of origin and see where out-movers from that state are going. The result is ranked by the number of tax returns, a surrogate for households. Remember, even the most “desirable” states, as tallied by the “votes” of in-migrants, see out-migration to other states. Former Texans, for example, seem to like California (21,391), Florida (17,657), and Oklahoma (10,126).

So, pick your state, and see where your former neighbors are going. Or, pick a state you’ve thought of moving to, and see where your potential neighbors went after they had second thoughts about your state of interest.


More context, migration stats, and interactive visuals coming in the next blog. By the way, the interactive visualization in this blog post was constructed using Tableau Desktop and posted to Tableau Public. Thanks to Tableau Software for this technology!

Tom Exter1 Comment