People aren’t fleeing New Jersey, no matter what a moving van company says

June 22, 2023 6:58 am

A van company's annual claim that people are fleeing New Jersey is bunk, says writer Jen A. Miller. (Photo by New Jersey Monitor)

Once a year, United Van Lines unleashes the National Movers Survey, which purports to give a snapshot of where Americans are moving. According to them, New Jersey is a loser for five years running.

Last year they said more residents moved out of New Jersey than any other state, claiming 67% of New Jersey moves were outbound in 2022. 

This survey is red meat for people outside New Jersey who want to take cheap shots at us, and for those inside the state who probably hate us, at least in the direction we’re going.

Now United Van Lines’ claims are being tossed around in tandem with the “Stay NJ” plan that would cut senior citizen tax bills, and which its supporters say will stop seniors from fleeing to states with lower taxes.

The problem with the survey is it’s bunk.

To make the bold claim that everyone is leaving New Jersey on a last-chance power drive, United Van Lines is only looking at itself. They analyze household moves by the UniGroup Network — their parent company — within the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C. They may be the largest moving company in the U.S., but they’re far from the only way people move. They’re leaving out people who move by borrowing a friend’s truck, renting a U-Haul, or hiring smaller independent companies. And, of course, all their corporate competitors.

When looking at real data, New Jersey is doing just fine. In total, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates New Jersey’s population dropped by 6,250 residents between July 1, 2021, and July 1, 2022. Out of a total population of 9.3 million, that’s a rounding error, not a mass exodus.

The Census Bureau also estimates that while, yes, 24,850 more people moved out of New Jersey than moved in during the same time period, the state’s estimated natural growth rate of resident births versus deaths was about 19,750 (let’s also not forget, COVID is still killing people — 8,441 in 2021 alone, the state says).

Seniors also aren’t fleeing. According to a 2021 report from the New Jersey Department of Human Services, the percentage of New Jersey residents age 60 and older rose 24.7% between 2010 and 2019. In 2019, New Jersey had 2,078,439 seniors. By 2029, they expect that number to reach almost 3 million.

Do all those seniors really need extra money to stay? The StayNJ plan would barely benefit those seniors who probably need the most help, as most of the benefits would go to property owners. I’m writing this from a beach house in Avalon, where the median resident is 61.7 years old, and the median home listing price in May 2023 was $3 million, according to Are seniors here in desperate need of a tax cut? They’d probably throw it at a new electric golf cart.

The moving van survey also fails to recognize the power of New Jersey, and the state we’re building, with values not often cool with those who typically scream loudest that our taxes are too high. New Jersey is already becoming a destination for U.S. residents who don’t hate gay people, believe women should make choices about our own bodies, and think kids should be able to learn about history as it happened (and read whatever they want). According to Data for Progress, 8% of transgender adults have already left their home communities due to anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. Another 43% of transgender adults and 41% of transgender young adults have considered moving. New Jersey is one of the states they’re seeking out (in April, Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order protecting the right to gender-affirming care).

I’ve lived in this state most of my life, and I get that our taxes are high. But taxes also pay for things, like bridges, roads, public schools, public parks, public beaches, and everything else that our local government should, in theory, supply.

And so-called “low cost” states often aren’t, if you look at the whole picture. Florida, which is apparently sucking away our richest residents, isn’t looking so sunny these days. There, homeowners insurance premiums have increased 100% since 2020, a statistic that doesn’t include the recent announcement from Farmer’s Insurance that it is “pausing” new homeowners policies for properties there. Those waterfront Florida homes New Jersey residents purport to flee to for tax reasons (or claim as their primary residence while living most of the year here anyway — I see your Florida license plates, cheats) don’t look like a good deal right now, and will continue to sour as the state sinks — and I mean that literally.

So no, a survey a moving van company does for the publicity, and all of our angry clicks, should not be anything anyone should use to determine legislation or tax rates in New Jersey. Those vans and their junk science can all exit south over the Delaware Memorial Bridge. It’ll make more room for people who truly care about each other, no matter who they are — and no matter what some clickbait survey says.

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