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Guess Who Is Leaving New York (It’s Not the Ultra-Rich)

In Hochul’s New York, millionaires eat $30,000 spaghetti and the rest of us eat shit.

2:25 PM EST on December 5, 2023

A boat docked in a New York City marina
(Hell Gate)

It's a gripping image: New York City's highest earners packing up their worldly possession in Rimowas and vintage Louis Vuitton luggage in search of greener pastures, lower taxes, and freedom from the scourge of crime and disorder (seeing a guy asleep on the street, a protest blocking a bridge, or teens smoking weed in a park)—all of the ills plaguing a once-beautiful metropolis. 

Too bad it's just a fantasy. 

According to a pair of reports from the Fiscal Policy Institute and the state Comptroller's office analyzing migration from New York, the city's most monied individuals haven't actually abandoned the Empire State in significant numbers, despite breathless media narratives suggesting otherwise. 

According to the FPI report, which analyzed migration patterns in the state over the past eight years: 

"While high earners moved away at higher rates during the COVID pandemic, this was a temporary departure from the usual pattern, which is that high earners leave the state at approximately ¼ the rate of all other New Yorkers. When high earners do leave, they move to other high tax states more often than they move to low tax states. Most significantly, FPI’s independent statistical analysis of the available data sources shows that high earners did not change their migration patterns in response to two recent tax increases (in 2017 and 2021)."

Though the FPI report emphasizes that a significant number of high earners—defined as state residents making more than $815,000 a year—left New York between 2020 and 2022, those numbers have since fallen to normal levels of migration. The report also states that the ability to work from home—not chaos in the streets or tax hikes—was the defining force behind the movement trend, driving 43 percent of high earners' decision to leave, going so far as to conclude that "there is no evidence of tax-motivated migration out of New York." (It's also worth noting that New York gained more high earners than it lost, even between 2020 and 2022: 2,400 millionaires left the state, but 17,500 moved in, an overall increase in our millionaire population.) The Comptroller's report backed up these findings, calling the pandemic-related outflux of New Yorkers in 2020 an "aberration."

The FPI report also countered narratives that New Yorkers fled the state for places with lower tax rates—the classic "moving to Florida" story that conservative outlets like the New York Post have run into the ground. According to actual migration statistics, most of the New Yorkers who headed out of state moved to other states with high tax rates, like Connecticut, New Jersey, and California. 

So who is fleeing New York City, if not the people who are spending $30,000 to join a private spaghetti club? According to the New York Times, which got an advanced copy of the FPI report, the groups who left at the highest rate in 2022 were part of Black and Latine working class households making between $32,000 and $65,000 a year. And they leave because the cost of living here—especially housing and childcare—is forcing them out. 

If you're reading these reports and wondering if this data presents a genuine opportunity to pay for essential services and expand the social safety net by raising taxes on ultra-rich people, well, you're not Governor Kathy Hochul.

"Taxes are high enough in the state of New York and we have to live within our means," the governor told the Times in response.

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