By Chris Campion
Vermont Business Magazine recently published an article titled “Vermont tops moving-in list for second year“, based on an annual United Van Lines movers’ study. While the title is interesting, the article itself is misleading, as it’s based on a percentage of all moves (inbound and outbound), not a raw number.
Vermont topped the list of Top Moving Destinations of 2018 according to the 2018 National Movers Study by United Van Lines, the nation’s largest household goods mover. In 2018, more residents moved into Vermont than out of the state, with 72.6 percent of moves being inbound. This marks the second straight year that Vermont is the top inbound moving destination in the US.
Vermont is only the top inbound moving destination, by percentage of total moves, not the total count of moves.
The study also found that the state with the highest percentage of inbound migration was Vermont (72.6 percent), with 234 total moves. Oregon, which had 3,346 total moves, experienced the second highest percentage nationally, with 63.8 percent inbound moves.
So Oregon places second to Vermont, even though it had over 14 times the volume of in-bounds, compared to Vermont. In other words, no, people are not flocking to Vermont. Oregon, maybe, but not Vermont.
The reasons why people move into and out of Vermont are extremely telling. For people moving into Vermont, 34 percent are moving in for a job. But 86 percent of people moving out of Vermont are moving out for a job.
In other words, there’s a 3-1 ratio of people moving out of Vermont vs. moving in, for employment reasons. The only thing making up the difference, in terms of net in-bounds, is people moving to Vermont for retirement, almost 1/3 of all in-bounds. As the article goes on to state: “The study reveals that those moving into Vermont are older and wealthier and most often move here as a retirement destination. Those moving out are younger and tend to do so for a job elsewhere.”
Young Vermonters leave Vermont because it’s such a challenge to find well-compensated employment, and the cost of living is so high. In-bound retirees tend to have the highest incomes and the ability to afford homes in Vermont, and the attendant property taxes. One third of in-bounds is 65 or over. Almost two-thirds of in-bounds are age 55 or older.
Vermont is 47 of 50 states in terms of population growth, based on census data and 2018 estimates. That’s a net change of roughly 500 people, out of 625,000, a couple hundred of that numbers due to in-bound movers. Vermont’s population growth is the lowest in the country, as of 2005 data, of 10.1 births per 1,000 people – Utah is twice that rate.
Vermont’s problems with its demographics are so bad, that the state is actually paying people to move to Vermont, as if a small financial incentive will overturn decades of work establishing Vermont as one of the worst business climates in the country. Even though South Burlington made USA Today’s list of best cities to live in, by state, if you look at the income to home value ratio, it’s perfectly clear why fewer young people are staying or moving to Vermont (data from the article):
Selling Vermont as a great place to live is easy, if you don’t have to contend with messy details like being able to afford to live there. When Vermont’s politicians are busy celebrating their fine work in legalizing marijuana (which is a layup in terms of effort) instead of addressing the critical core failings of Vermont’s “leadership” for the past 40 years, the outlook for those remaining is darker than ever, and a long slow ride into oblivion awaits.
Chris Campion is a business analyst who worked for decades in leading organizations in Vermont. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.