New Jersey Policy Lab: Interstate Migration: A Lost Cause for New Jersey?

December 23, 2021

by Tia Azzi for New Jersey Policy Lab

For many years, New Jersey has lost population via net in- and out-migration. From 2011 through 2019, this has resulted in the state hemorrhaging a total of more than $23.6 billion in net adjusted gross income (AGI) according to U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 2021 data. While education plays a role, the migration story for New Jersey largely centers on wealth. Among U.S. states, New Jersey has one of the top concentrations of millionaires (Young et al., 2016) and a rather progressive tax rate. Naturally, wealthier households that bear the highest tax burden are rather sensitive to taxation and can avoid some taxes by moving to a property in another state for a majority of each year.

Number of Returns & Number of Exemptions

New Jersey’s population has grown largely because births outnumber deaths (O’Dea, 2019). From 2016-2019, however, New Jersey has, in net, lost 106,722 individuals via interstate migration based on the number of IRS exemptions. Interestingly, the annual count of net migrants has steadily declined, as have both in- and out-migration flows.


Despite its distance from New Jersey, Florida had the third-highest count of out-migrants from New Jersey since 2016 (and the second-most in 2018-2019). But Florida has both a large population and no personal income tax, both of which lure migrants. Neighboring New York and Pennsylvania consistently capture the highest count of out-migrating New Jerseyans from 2016 onward.

From 2018 to 2019, just five states— California, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania—composed 74.2% of all New Jersey out-migrants, but 80.7% of their AGI that year. Importantly, New Jerseyans moving to Florida had a higher average AGI than did those moving to other states (see Figure 1). The average AGI per out-migrant from New Jersey was about $62,250.


Just as out-migration hurts New Jersey’s economy, in-migrants boost the state’s economy with added funds. California, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania represent the top four states in terms of the count of in-migrants to New Jersey; they account for 81.6% of the state’s in-migrants and 80.3% of the concordant aggregate inflowing AGI. In fact, New York alone supplies about half of New Jersey’s interstate in-migrants as well as their AGI.


Seven of the ten most populous states are top-ten destinations for New Jersey out-migrants—New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, California, North Carolina, Texas, and Georgia. The enhanced availability of jobs is likely a major factor pulling New Jerseyans to these states. Based on AGI per migrant, wealthier families appear to prefer California, Florida, Illinois, and New York in which to resettle. New York state’s proximity and size are logical lures. The size and climates of California and Florida also have clear appeal, as does Florida’s lack of state income tax.

Finally, it was particularly notable that New York State is the only top-ten state in interstate migration exchange with New Jersey that had a higher rate of in-migration than out-migration. Despite New Jersey residents leaving for New York in large numbers, New Jersey obtained a net gain of 124,766 residents from New York from 2015 to 2018.

Figure 1: Average Adjusted Gross Income per New Jersey Out-Migrant by State, 2018-2019

Source:  U.S. Internal Revenue Service. (2021). “SOI Tax Stats-Migration Data” with R/ECON calculations


Bureau, US Census. (2020). Population estimates continue to show the nation’s growth is slowing. The United States Census Bureau, 2 January, available online in November 2021 at

O’Dea, C. (2019). Interactive Map: IRS Data Shows New Jersey Loses Out in Relocation Game. NJ Spotlight News, 18 January. Available online in November 2021 at

Young, C., Varner, C., Lurie, I. Z., & Prisinzano, R. (2016). Millionaire migration and taxation of the elite: Evidence from administrative data. American Sociological Review81(3), 421-446. DOI: 10.1177/0003122416639625

Recent Posts

NJSPL – New Jersey Employment Concerns Revisited

As 2024 began with yet another surprisingly strong jobs report for the U.S. (353,000 jobs added in January and the unemployment rate steady at 3.7%), and with a full year’s worth of 2023 state-level employment data now available, it’s worth briefly revisiting some of...

New Research: The Traffic Calming Effect of Delineated Bicycle Lanes

Abstract We analyze the effect of a bicycle lane on traffic speeds. Computer vision techniques are used to detect and classify the speed and trajectory of over 9,000 motor-vehicles at an intersection that was part of a pilot demonstration in which a bicycle lane was...

Upcoming Events

Event Series CAREERS

Career Virtual Drop-ins


Bloustein Career Development Specialists Cheryl Egan and Andrea Garrido will be in a Zoom Room on Monday's beginning January 22, 2024 (excluding holidays and spring break) to answer questions, provide […]