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January 16, 2019

Republicans and other critics of the Murphy administration have seized on a United Van Lines’ annual National Movers Study ranking New Jersey as the state with the largest outmigration in 2018 as evidence of it being too expensive to live here. Following Gov. Phil Murphy’s State of the State address, Republican leaders in the Legislature said just that.

United Van Lines’ study is based on 2,959 families that it moved from New Jersey to other states, representing two-thirds of all moves the firm handled involving the state. It also moved 1,471 persons into New Jersey. Over the last 10 years of the survey, New Jersey has been one of the top 10 states for outmigration and moved up to first place for 2018.

Undoubtedly, many people migrate out of New Jersey each year for many reasons. Some of the biggest ones are for retirement to a warmer, and yes, cheaper retirement. But critics note that there are a number of problems with the study. For one, it is based solely on customers who used United to move them from one state to another and its clients do not always proportionally represent the nation’s population: New Jersey is the 11th most populous state but had only the 16th most moves by United. And the sample size of the study is tiny in a state with more than 3.2 million households.

New Jersey’s ranking as a state with high outmigration is often cited by politicians, organizations and think tanks. Two studies over the last few years have contended millennials or young adults leave New Jersey at higher rates than they leave other states, while another study last September debunked that and found that young people move out of the state at about the same rate as they leave other nearby high-cost states and at no greater rate than they have in the past. One major reason why young people leave New Jersey is to go to college.

Ultimately, data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that New Jersey’s population continues to rise, albeit at a slower pace than some other states. Five states — Wyoming, West Virginia, Illinois, Alaska and Hawaii — actually lost population between 2016 and 2017, data shows. Thirteen others, including nearby Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania, grew at a rate slower than New Jersey. Census officials estimate New Jersey’s population grew by 0.3 percent from 2016 to 2017, and by 2.4 percent from 2010 to 2017, making it the 31st fastest growing state in the nation.

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