New York as a Gigantic Refinery of the Nation’s Human Capital

The New York metropolitan region, the largest in the United States, “lost almost 2 million net domestic migrants during the 2000s,” according to Aaron Renn in City Journal. Drawing on Census data, Renn differentiates between the regions that attracted the most people leaving the New York region and those that attracted the most income that used to be earned and spent there:

During the 2000s, the Miami metro area was the Number One destination for both New Yorkers and their income, sucking away more than 125,000 people over the decade and $6 billion worth of income. (Metro New York lost $14.8 billion in income to Florida as a whole, making it the top state in grabbing New York income.) Of the ten regions that attracted the most New Yorkers, four more were in the Sunbelt: Orlando, Atlanta, Tampa–Saint Petersburg, and Charlotte. New York also lost significant numbers of migrants to the nearby Poughkeepsie and Bridgeport metro areas, though these closer migrations are best understood as a type of far-flung suburbanization. The ten areas that attracted the most New York money included all of those five Sunbelt regions except Charlotte, while second and third place went to nearby Bridgeport–Stamford (home of wealthy, hedge-fund-dominated Greenwich) and Poughkeepsie.

Predictably enough, I take Renn’s findings to mean that the usual litany of market-oriented prescriptions I already support for high-cost regions like New York and the Bay Area are more important than ever: ease local land-use regulations to make housing more affordable, improve the quality of local public services by reforming the terms of public employment and introducing competition, etc. But I did like Renn’s suggestion that the flow into and out of New York has an upside for the country as a whole:

Nor are New York’s migration woes a problem for the country as a whole. After all, the region continues to take in immigrants from abroad, turn them into Americans, and send them to other places. In much the same way, it takes in young, relatively untrained singles and sends out skilled workers, often with families. One can therefore view New York as a gigantic refinery of the nation’s human capital.

But one wonders about the implications of this refining process. Do New York’s outmigrants bring high-tax urban liberalism and NIMBYism to new locales, or does their experience of high-tax, high-cost New York nudge them to the right? My guess is that you get some of both. 

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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