Rhode Island, the smallest state in the US, is grappling with a significant issue: a decline in population due to residents relocating.
According to the latest census data, between 2019 and 2020, Rhode Island experienced a loss of 2,625 residents, translating to a 0.25% population decrease. This ongoing trend has consistently positioned Rhode Island among states with the highest net out-migration rates. The question arises: why are people leaving Rhode Island, and where are they choosing to go?
High Taxes and Cost of Living
A primary factor driving people away from Rhode Island is the burden of high taxes and living costs. Rhode Island bears the distinction of having the fourth-highest state and local tax burden in the country, standing at 10.8% of income.
Additionally, it ranks sixth in property taxes, ninth in sales taxes, and tenth in income taxes. These financial pressures make it challenging for residents to afford essentials, particularly housing. Rhode Island claims the eighth-highest median home value in the US, reaching $334,900, and the tenth-highest median rent, at $1,200.
Consequently, many individuals find more economical living arrangements in neighboring states like Massachusetts, Connecticut, or New Hampshire, which offer lower taxes and more affordable housing options.
Lack of Economic Opportunity
Another significant driver of population decline in Rhode Island is the dearth of economic opportunities. With the second-lowest labor force participation rate in the US (61.9%) and the third-highest unemployment rate (7.3%), Rhode Island paints a picture of a weakened and stagnant economy.
The state also ranks fourth-lowest in GDP per capita, at $54,948, and fifth-lowest in median household income, at $64,340. Faced with these economic challenges, many individuals seek more promising prospects in states like Florida, Texas, or North Carolina, where higher GDP growth, lower unemployment, and diverse industries offer better job opportunities and wages.
Declining Quality of Life
A third compelling reason behind the exodus from Rhode Island is the diminishing quality of life. The state holds the unfortunate distinction of having the third-worst infrastructure in the US, as reported by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Additionally, its public education system ranks fourth-worst according to US News & World Report. These factors adversely impact residents’ well-being, grappling with subpar roads, bridges, schools, and public services. As a result, many individuals seek an enhanced quality of life in states like Vermont, Colorado, or Utah, which boast higher scores in infrastructure, education, health, and environment.
Where Are They Going?
So, where are the departing residents of Rhode Island relocating to? According to the US Census Bureau, the top five states that received the most migrants from Rhode Island in 2019 were:
- Massachusetts: 8,494 people
- Florida: 4,779 people
- Connecticut: 2,984 people
- New York: 2,216 people
- North Carolina: 1,819 people
These states offer advantages over Rhode Island, including lower taxes, warmer weather, increased job opportunities, or greater cultural diversity.
However, they also present their own challenges such as traffic, crime, natural disasters, or political polarization. Consequently, the decision to relocate from one state to another is nuanced, contingent on individual preferences and circumstances.
Rhode Island faces a population decline as more residents leave than arrive. This exodus is primarily attributed to high taxes and living costs, a lack of economic opportunities, and a diminishing quality of life.
Popular destinations for Rhode Island migrants include Massachusetts, Florida, Connecticut, New York, and North Carolina. Nevertheless, each of these states has its own set of advantages and drawbacks. Ultimately, the ideal place to live is one that aligns with individual needs and goals, and for some, that may or may not be Rhode Island.