On January 21, 2020, Texas Governor Greg Abbott claimed that Americans were “fleeing” to his state in search of better economic opportunities. In an interview on Fox and Friends, Abbott said, “700,000 people fled California. When you consider the beautiful climate out there, it’s something else to imagine 700,000 fleeing there.”
Abbott cited specific states such as Illinois and New Jersey as commonplaces of origin for people choosing Texas as their new home. “You have people fleeing Illinois, New Jersey, other states because they’re trying to get away from the things that hamstring capitalism and hamstring their ability to start and grow a business.”
Abbott’s statements echoed former Governor Rick Perry’s calls for Californians to move to Texas in 2013. Perry cited Texas’s pro-growth policies as an incentive for Californians to relocate and start anew.
Last fall, the Los Angeles Times and the University of California, Berkeley, partnered together in a study that reported that slightly over half of registered voters are contemplating leaving the state. Forty percent of those surveyed who were flirting with a move were conservative. On the other hand, 14 percent were liberal. Those leaving California partially attributed the desire to move to a more conservative political climate as one of the reasons for their departure.
The trend of people moving from blue to red states is starting to become very apparent to commentators across the nation. Widespread reports reveal there are clear public policy differences that make certain states more expensive to live in and more devoid of economic opportunities. In light of this, people make the rational decision to vote with their feet. We must always remember that public policy matters; nothing in politics happens by coincidence.
From a public policy standpoint, Texas’s pro-business reputation is strongly merited. According to the Cato Institute’s Freedom in the 50 States index, Texas is ranked 10th place for overall freedom. On the other hand, states like Illinois, New Jersey, and California are ranked 36th, 46th, and 48th respectively.
Overall, Texas’s business-friendly policies make it attractive for people searching for better work opportunities and to raise a family. Texas still has work to do on occupational licensing matters, where it is ranked in 49th place according to Cato’s index. However, it still offers a considerably more optimal business environment when juxtaposed to blue states.
The silver lining of this trend is how the U.S.’s federalist system permits states to compete with one another on public policy. When one state becomes too oppressive in certain regards, other states can position themselves as freedom-respecting alternatives. As more people flood out of anti-freedom states, policymakers will have to ask themselves why these people are leaving in the first place.
Texas’s success story should serve as a model for California. At the very least, blue states can stem their bleeding by rolling back some of their tax and regulatory policies. If they fail to do so, more residents will continue to leave those states in search of greener pastures.