For the past month, Gov. Jim Justice has insisted the way to reverse seven decades of population decline in West Virginia is his proposal to partially repeal the state personal income tax. Likewise, Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, has claimed that elimination of the tax would bring 400,000 people to the state over the next 10 years.
However, while the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual Current Population Survey finds myriad primary reasons why people move from one place to another, pursuit of low taxes is not one of them.
The 2019-20 survey, released in December, surveyed 29,780 Americans who moved during the year, asking them to identify the primary reason for moving.
Housing was the most common response, with 11,959 of the 29,780 participants (40%) citing housing-related reasons for moving.
In that category, the most common reason was for a larger, newer or better house or apartment (4,339, 22%), followed by opting to own a home rather than rent (2,328, 19%).
Other housing-related reasons for moving included seeking cheaper housing or better neighborhoods.
Housing-related moves might explain why 24,581 of the 29,780 moves (82%) were within the same state, including 17,522 moves (59%) within the same county.
Only 4,233 of those surveyed had moved to a different state (14%), and only 2,066 (7%) moved to a state in a different region of the country.
After housing, family reasons were the second-largest category for moving, cited by 7,594 of the 29,780 (25%). Establishing one’s own household was the most common family related reason for moving, cited by 3,171 of those surveyed. Change in marital status necessitated 1,827 moves.
That category was followed by employment-related reasons, cited by 5,897 of the 29,780 (20%).
A new job or job transfer topped that category, cited by 3,399 (58%), followed by the desire to be closer to work/have an easier commute, with 1,465 responses.
In this category, 398 cited retirement as the primary reason for moving, accounting for about 7% of employment-related reasons, and for about 1.3% of those surveyed overall.
Justice and Blair have said attracting retirees from other states is a reason for cutting income taxes.
The last category, other reasons, accounted for 4,334 responses, or 15%. Those included relationship with an unmarried partner (1,528), to attend or leave college (938), health reasons (596), change of climate (115), and natural disaster (111).
The remaining 1,046 responses were listed as other reasons, which the survey indicates included participants who had answered “other” in one of the other categories, and when asked to write in more specific reasons, provided reasons that could not be re-coded as any of the existing categories or reasons.