Photographer: John Albano/Getty Images/iStockphoto

People Are Bailing on Chris Christie’s New Jersey. How Is Your State Holding Up?

United Van Lines issues its annual report on the migratory patterns of the American human.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had an awful 2016, what with Bridgegate and a presidential election bid that flamed out early. This year isn’t off to such a great start either.

United Van Lines announced this week that New Jersey had the nation’s widest gap last year between people moving out and people moving in, according to a study based on household moves United handled within the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C. Sixty-three percent of moves were outbound, meaning two people moved out of the Garden State for every person who moved in, roughly speaking. United has been conducting the study for four decades, and New Jersey has led the nation in this metric each year since 2012.

If it’s any consolation to Christie, Illinois and New York were a hair’s breadth behind New Jersey in last year’s results, with outbound moves rounding off to 63 percent. Behind them came Connecticut and Kansas. 

Millennials are moving to urban areas in the Midwest and Northeast, but they’re outnumbered by retirees moving out of the region, said Michael Stoll, chairman of the Department of Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, in an analysis for United Van Lines.

And the winners? South Dakota had the biggest share of inbound moves, followed by Vermont, Oregon, Idaho, and South Carolina. California was right around the middle, with an even split between the inbound and the outbound.

People moving to the Mountain West frequently cite retirement, Stoll said, while those moving to the Pacific West or Midwest are more likely to do it for work. Nearly one in five people who moved in 2016 wanted to be closer to family. 

Michele Siekerka, president and chief executive of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, said in an interview that the van company’s study is consistent with her group’s research. The exodus is most severe among 18- to 34-year-olds, the group has found. Tax changes enacted last year, including a phase-out of the estate tax, will “have a positive impact,” Siekerka said. A spokesman for the governor didn’t return a phone call seeking comment on the study’s results. 

New Jersey’s website ticks off a number of the state’s distinctions: the first to sign the Bill of Rights, a coastline 127 miles long, and many others. Its business recruitment site observes that a number of major pharmaceutical companies call the state home and says New Jersey is “often referred to as the ‘Medicine Chest of the World.’ ”

A day after the survey was released, New Jersey 101.5, a radio station that remains Proud to Be New Jersey, offered a handful of reasons listeners have given over the years for moving out of state. Among others, the station’s website listed property taxes, corruption, traffic, tolls, and a ban on pumping one’s own gas, which evidently raises trust issues and which the state’s site lists as a selling point.

Also on the list are beach tags, “because name ONE other state that charges you to walk onto its sand.” (No mention is made of the governor’s famous invitation to beachgoers, as Hurricane Irene bore down on Asbury Park, to consider calling it a day. Nor is Bruce Springsteen, with his songs’ love/hate relationship with New Jersey, invoked.)

There’s a handy map of all the notable moves in the nation here.

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