2022 was another year of more Kansans leaving the state than new residents coming in. In the Allied Van Lines 2022 US Migration Report for 2022, only 45.4% of customers using Allied in Kansas were inbound while 54.6% of customers were outbound. A multitude of factors are certainly at play but one of these is the Sunflower State’s decades of economic malaise. This continues a trend of outbound moves seen in previous years from Allied and from the Census Bureau. As recorded in our upcoming 2023 Green Book, Since 2000, Kansas has lost 192,918 residents from domestic migration – the 39th worst state for migration in the country.
Every household has a different reason why they would move to a new state, so trying to attribute one issue as the biggest push or pull factor is difficult. However, the Allied Migration Report suggests that cost-of-living and job opportunities were two of the biggest factors. For instance, despite growing its GDP by 8%, California lost residents via migration. The report cites a 0.6% decrease in wages and a high cost of living as reasons. By contrast, Texas’s GDP and wages grew by 6.4% and their cost of living was low. That combination contributes to its status as the top state for inbound migration.
From the 2023 Green Book again, from 1998 to 2021, Kansas ranked 37th in the country for wage growth. Over that same time period, Kansas’s total private sector jobs as recorded by the Bureau of Economic Analysis grew by 13.2%, ranking 44th in the country while other states like Texas and Florida grew by 65.8% and 66.8% respectively.
Kansas’s taxes also create cost-of-living burdens for current and new residents. The combined state and average local tax rates are the 9th highest in the country. Kansas has the highest tax rates on mature businesses in the country, limiting the long-term gains of small business growth.
Other states in the Midwest are pursuing economic reforms to bolster their economy and attract new business to the state – and Kansas needs to do the same to stay competitive. Kansas’s highest marginal personal income tax rate is 5.70%, ranking 24th in the country. Last year, Missouri brought its top rate down from 5.2 to 4.95%, Iowa enacted a plan to gradually reduce its bracketed system with a top rate of 6.0% down to a flat tax of 3.9%, and Colorado recently went down to a flat rate of 4.40%. Enacting a flat tax would match successful reforms over the last five years across the country, and would put Kansas on the literal and figurative map when it came to growth.
The toll paid by families for 40 years of economic stagnation will not be overturned with any single policy. People have been leaving Kansas for years as a result. But, things like letting Kansans keep more of their wages is a first step to encouraging people to stay in Kansas and encouraging new folks to call our state home.