Another year, another worrisome exodus from the Empire State.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, New York’s population fell by 0.65 percent between July 2019 and July 2020, with 126,355 residents moving elsewhere.
The state’s population loss was the steepest in the country for the third year in a row, a dubious distinction that points to a broader and deeper discontent.
Some will likely blame the state’s shrinking headcount on the pandemic, but doing so ignores an inconvenient but undeniable truth: New York’s population loss has been going on for years, and shows no sign of slowing down.
Urgently needed are answers: Why are New Yorkers picking up and leaving, and what can be done, if anything, to stem the tide?
Unfortunately, state lawmakers have shown little appetite for getting at the root of New York’s population loss and developing a policy response.
With rare exceptions – earlier this year, Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara and Sen. Jim Tedisco launched a bipartisan effort to examine the state’s population loss – most elected officials seem perfectly happy to keep New York’s diminished citizenry off the agenda.
Of course, it isn’t difficult to figure out what’s driving people to move away from New York.
Every time I write about this issue, I receive emails from people happy to tell me.
The state’s high taxes and high cost of living tend to top the list, but there are other concerns, from New York’s reputation as a “nanny state” to a perceived lack of opportunity and jobs to overall quality of life. For many, warmer locales like Florida and Texas hold great appeal, as reflected by the population growth in both those states.
Taking a good, hard look at what’s prompting people to put moving signs in front of their homes and relocate could help build the groundwork for a better New York, one that attracts new residents because it has so much to offer. But this can only happen if the state’s political leadership is willing to truly engage with the issue, and I’m not sure it is.
For a long time, the state’s population decline was mainly upstate, which might explain why lawmakers took little notice of it.
But in recent years, this has changed.
New York City has been losing people, too – according to an article in Bloomberg Wealth from early December, the Big Apple lost 376 residents per day to domestic migration in 2019.
That’s a lot.
Since 2010, New York has lost over 1.4 million residents to other states, and could lose as many as two seats in the U.S. House of Representatives as a result.
And while the state remains one of the biggest in the country – smaller only than California, Texas and Florida – its influence in Washington, D.C., would seem to be on the wane.
What’s most concerning to me about New York’s population loss isn’t the loss of a Congressional seat or two.
It’s that so many people don’t want to live here.
Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.