Families are moving across the country for jobs and opportunities…but not to Kansas. U.S. Census Bureau data collected in KPI’s 2023 Green Book shows that between 2000 and 2022, Kansas had a net loss of 192,518 residents from domestic migration: that’s a little under the total population of Overland Park. Nationally, the Sunflower State ranked 39th for domestic migration – a sign that the state lacks the economic growth that both attracts and, in part, comes from new residents.
Compared to Kansas’s neighbors with similar economies, and not boasting mountains or beaches, the results are more dour. Oklahoma had a net gain of 121,807 people too. Nebraska and Kansas both lost residents…but Kansas lost more than two and a half times what Nebraska did.
The lack of domestic migration is indicative of Kansas’s stagnating economy. Colorado, for instance, ranked 8th in the country for private-sector job growth by the Bureau of Economic Analysis while Kansas ranked 44th. Colorado ranked 10th for private-sector wage growth while Kansas was at 37th.
Colorado is growing in large part due to its fiscally responsible government. Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights creates limits on how much the government taxes and spends, so excess taxation is returned to residents in the form of checks, such as $160 for filers earning up to $48,000 – meaning that mountains have less to do with in-migration than we’re often lead to believe. A low, flat tax rate of 4.40% also helps attract businesses and may be phased out entirely to promote growth and keep more cash in taxpayers’ wallets. Again, lifestyle and mountain vistas likely play some role but that kind of difference has to do with economic opportunity, not simply a place to go camping on the weekend.
Kansas’s taxes 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 like Colorado has. 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%. 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.