Where are Barnstable residents migrating to?

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Using Pioneer Institute’s newest database, Massachusetts IRS Data Discovery, we can see migration trends among Massachusetts citizens to other U.S. states and counties from 2019. For a specific example of migration, we can look at Barnstable County (Cape Cod) to see if there are any apparent trends in the destinations of departing Barnstable residents.


States and counties Barnstable county residents are migrating to in 2019: net returns (number of migrants to and from Barnstable):
Connecticut 96
New York 44
Foreign 26
New Hampshire 24
Maryland 21
Illinois 20
District of Columbia 1
California -7
Washington -20
Virginia -21
South Carolina -22
Arizona -29
Maine -46
Rhode Island -58
Florida -352

Table 1

IRS database/AGI migration


Table 1 shows all the different states and total net returns (number of people) from each state that residents of Barnstable county are migrating to or from in 2019. A positive net number of returns signifies the net number of people that Barnstable county gained from said state and a negative net number of returns signifies the number of people who migrated to said state from Barnstable County.


Figure 1

IRS database/AGI migration


Through Table 1 and the interactive features of Figure 1, we can see trends among the states that Barnstable County residents are migrating to. In addition, Figure 1 shows the adjusted gross income (AGI) per each return that migrates to or from Barnstable County. 


One major trend visible in the data is the inflow of returns to Barnstable County from states that neighbor Massachusetts. For example, there were a noticeable number of migrants from Connecticut, New York, and New Hampshire. According to Boston Indicators, this influx from other northeastern states is often due to employment changes and family connections. In addition, this trend is consistent in other Massachusetts counties such as Middlesex, where 401 net people entered in 2019 according to Pioneer Institute’s IRS and Migration database.


One outlier apparent in the data is the migration of Barnstable County residents to Florida. Table 2 below details the specific counties in Florida that Barnstable residents are migrating to.


Florida counties Net Returns (number of people moving out of Barnstable county) in 2019
Palm Beach 1
Volusia -20
Broward -24
Pinellas -24
Indian River -25
Manatee -25
Brevard -25
Charlotte -28
Hillsborough -29
Miami-Dade -33
Collier -35
Lee -42
Sarasota -43

Table 2

IRS database/AGI migration


According to this article, a major benefit of moving to Florida from Massachusetts is the good health associated with a warmer climate. However, migration to Florida because of climate may not be the driving force behind the movement of Barnstable residents.


According to articles in the Boston Herald and the Orlando Sentinel, the more probable reason for the large number of migrants from Barnstable to Florida counties is taxation. Florida has no state income tax, severely lower estate taxes, and no tax on interest and dividends. Therefore, it seems that Florida’s tax policies are appealing to residents of higher tax states.


Although taxation is necessary, the migration patterns described above show that high taxes may cause people to not only move out of state, but may also hurt the economy and prevent people from starting businesses and creating jobs due to economic limitations. 


Nathan Bornstein is a Roger Perry Intern at Pioneer Institute. He is a rising senior high school student at the Buckingham Browne & Nichols school in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His favorite subjects at school are history, math, and foreign language.