"Tax Refugees Staging Escape From New York," a New York Post headline declaredyesterday (10/27/09). In an ordinary newspaper, you might take that as a signal that the story below was prepared to offer evidence that tax refugees were leaving New York–but the New York Post is no ordinary newspaper.
Instead, the piece by Andy Soltis (which is likely getting extra attention thanks to link from the Drudge Report headlined "'RICH' NEW YORKERS FLEEING AT ALARMING RATE") describes a report by a branch of the right-wing Manhattan Institute that says that people moving from New York, and particularly from New York City, make more money than people moving to New York. Soltis writes:
The average Manhattan taxpayer who left the state earned $93,264 a year. The average newcomer to Manhattan earned only $72,726.
As an explanation for this phenomenon, the Manhattan Institute "blames the state's high cost of living and high taxes," according to the story. People who make less money are moving to New York City because it costs so much to live there? That doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Here's an alternative explanation: People often move to the city at the beginning of their careers, and leave when they get enough money to buy a house in the suburbs or retire. Maybe that would explain the fact that the top two states New Yorkers moved to, according to the story, were Florida and New Jersey. At any rate, I've just given you more evidence to substantiate my theory than the Post offered to back up its "tax refugees" headline.
But then, it's hard not to think that the conscious aim of this story was to bamboozle its readers. Look at the lead paragraphs:
New Yorkers are fleeing the state and city in alarming numbers–and costing a fortune in lost tax dollars, a new study shows.
More than 1.5 million state residents left for other parts of the United States from 2000 to 2008, according to the report from the Empire Center for New York State Policy. It was the biggest out-of-state migration in the country.
The vast majority of the migrants, 1.1 million, were former residents of New York City–meaning one out of seven city taxpayers moved out.
How many people reading that would suspect that the population of New York state actually grew by about half a million people between 2000 and 2008–despite 1.5 million people "fleeing" the state? Or that New York City gained about 200,000 residents from 2000 to 2006 (the latest Census estimate)? Or, based on the Manhattan stats cited earlier, that the median household income of Manhattan actually rose 20 percent from 2000 to 2007 (in 2007 dollars)?
For the New York Post reader, life is full of surprises.