Latest Domestic Migration Data Reinforce Economic Case For Michigan Right to Work Statute


California lost more people to other states than it gained in 2011

Big Labor militants don't like Right to Work laws, but every year Americans, especially young adults and their children, keep voting with their feet for them by wide margins. Image:

A few hundred union militants hanging out in Lansing and forced-unionism apologists in the establishment media and academia around the country are loudly insisting that Michigan’s approval of a Right to Work law this week will plunge the state into a Dickensian nightmare.  At the same time, a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that Americans are continuing to vote with their feet by wide margins against compulsory union dues and fees.

Veteran Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters reported earlier this week on a complicated Census Bureau rundown of domestic and international migration in 2011.  Blogger Bruce Ross has created a relatively easily digestible summary of the findings on the domestic side.  (See the two articles linked above, and the connected tables, for more information.)

The Census data show that last year a net total of nearly 364,000 people moved out of the 28 states that at that time did not protect private-sector employees from being forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment and into one of the 22 Right to Work states.  (Since the beginning of this year, two more states, Indiana and Michigan, have enacted Right to Work laws.)

That is to say, in 2011 nearly 364,000 more people moved out of forced-unionism states as a group than moved into them.  And the negative correlation between compulsory dues and domestic migration is very robust.  None of the 10 states experiencing the greatest net out-migration of residents in absolute terms (Alaska, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio) had a Right to Work law in 2011.  But seven of the eight states with the greatest net domestic in-migration in absolute numbers (Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia) were Right to Work states.  The sole exception among the top eight was low-union-density, but non-Right to Work, Colorado.

The Census Bureau’s findings for 2011 are representative of the long-term trend.  From April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2009, for example, Census data show a net total of nearly five million people moved out of forced-unionism states and into Right to Work states.  The annual exodus of residents from Big Labor strongholds did decline a bit during the Great Recession of 2007-2009 and its immediate aftermath, but now appears to be on the rise again.

Die-hard defenders of monopoly privileges for union officials like Gordon Lafer of the Economic Policy Institute sometimes claim that the vast outflow of people from states where workers can be fired for refusal to join or financially support a union isn’t a result of poor job-and-opportunity climates.  Rather, Lafer and others suggest, the out-migration from forced-unionism states consists overwhelmingly of elderly people seeking a warm place to live.

Of course, this hypothesis fails to explain why sunny and temperate forced-unionism California lost a net total of 1.5 million people to domestic out-migration during the first decade of the millennium.   It also fails to explain why children 17 and under are the age group that is fleeing forced-unionism states in the greatest numbers.  From 2000 to 2011, the total population, aged 17 and under, in Right to Work states increased by 2.9 million.  Meanwhile, in forced-unionism states the number of children fell by 1.3 million.

The long-term data show that, pace Dr. Lafer, a lack of jobs that pay well enough, when the regional cost of living is taken into account, to support a family is the biggest single reason for the large net out-migration from forced-unionism states.    And the newly released data for 2011 show forced unionism continues to be an economic albatross for states as the nation slowly recovers from the Great Recession.