State Hate

2014-04-29_State_Residents_Desire_MoveVox has an article on the latest Gallup poll, which asked people if they wanted to move from their state. People in Montana, Hawaii, and Maine were the happiest. Only 23% of people in those states said they would like to move. People in Illinois, Connecticut, and Maryland were most discontent with their locations. Between 50 to 47 percent of people in those states wanted out. Other unhappy places included Nevada, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Lousiana, and Mississippi.

So, why are the discontent states so discontent? I would think that housing prices were a factor. Everybody I know plans to leave the areas as soon as their kids finish high school. They plan on selling their tiny homes here and buying a huge place elsewhere. But then Mississippi and Nevada are on the list, too. So, housing prices aren’t the whole story. It’s interesting that NJ, LA, and RI are on the list, because all three states have the highest levels of political corruption. It can’t be the weather, because Maine, Minnesota, and South Dakota is on the happy list. What’s the story here?

52 thoughts on “State Hate

  1. I live in Chicago, and my sense is that Illinoisans are totally disgusted with two things:
    * Gun violence in Chicago.
    * Political gridlock and corruption – especially, ironically, at the state level. Strange but true, in Chicago if you can be dirty, but only if you run your ward well.

    I’ve often wondered if it’s possible for Chicago to secede from Illinois and become some variant of a good old city-state, a la Bremen in the 1800s. At least then we could go back to no concealed carry.


    1. While gun violence in Chicago is a problem, it’s not a result of legal concealed carry (illegal concealed carry, perhaps). I don’t want to turn this into a pro/anti gun/concealed carry debate, because I think it’s cost of living/housing that’s the cause of desire to move.

      But gun violence in Chicago is caused by drugs/gangs, not legal concealed carry. If Chicago seceded from Illinois and went back to no legal concealed carry, gun violence in Chicago would not end by any means. Drugs are the cause of that (or the war on drugs).

      Indeed, legal concealed carry is new to Illinois, thus new to Chicago (July 9, 2013). Chicago gun violence did not start as of that date. According to Chicago’s Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, the 2014 murder rate in Chicago is at its lowest since 1965.

      I am not making the argument that the new legal concealed carry caused the drop, I’m only arguing that there is no causality between Illinois’ new legal concealed carry law and the rate of gun violence in Chicago.

      One can certainly argue guns, in general, relate to the gun violence, repealing the new legal concealed carry law would certainly not lower Chicago’s rate of gun violence.

      Banning all guns might-the research is all over on this and implementing such a ban in the U.S. would be difficult, if not impossible.

      All that said, I’d rather end the idiotic and expensive war on drugs would do more to help Chicago’s problems with gun violence.


      Regardless of the cause, though, the so-called ‘crime gap’ is a problem. A very large problem.


      1. I didn’t read jen as arguing that concealed carry is the cause of gun violence, merely that it’s something most Chicagoans don’t approve of (since it might make an already existing problem worse), but that they were forced to adopt by the rest of the state. My guess is gun violence in Chicago won’t improve until we elect a mayor who actually cares about the South Side. Not holding my breath.


  2. I wonder how much of this has to do with a shared and positive state identity. Minnesota has this (I find it a little obnoxious at times) and I think it makes people want to stay here.

    Not me. I’m not from here and don’t buy in to this shared identity and I would leave for somewhere warmer in a second.


      1. A few perspectives here:

        Plus mine: I moved to Maine 15 years ago and would never leave (unless I could convince my husband to move to NYC, which will never happen). Quality of life is killer. I don’t lock my doors during the day. I have amazing neighbors and a great group of friends, many of whom are fellow NJ/NY expats. The food scene here is ridiculously good. And I co-own a small company with fantastic people — our clients are out of state, and we do super high quality work while maintaining our quality of life.


      2. “The food scene here is ridiculously good.”

        Suggests Portland. There is no food scene anywhere else. And even then, I was never too impressed with the Portland food scene. The most I could say was that it was better than the Lewiston food scene.



    1. I lived in Maine from 2000-2003 and hated it, but I lived 45 minutes from Portland (or anywhere worth going). Do you live on the coast? Portland is the only place in Maine worth living in year-round (I could see an argument that Acadia is nice in the fall and the southern/western lake areas are nice int he summer).


    1. West Virginia, where it hasn’t been strip mined, is a really beautiful state with a relatively low cost of living. The trick is finding a good job there.


  3. @Scantee, I agree re: Minnesota. I can directly compare Minnesota with Illinois as I grew up in Minnesota but moved to Chicago after college graduation. Minnesotans, in my experience, stick pretty close to home. They usually grew up Minnesota, Iowa, or Wisconsin; they have very deep roots; they love it. This is one reason Minnesotans can seem stand-offish. They don’t need to make new friends, they’re already working hard to fit family and existing friends into their social schedules.

    In Chicago by contrast you can find some places where everyone grew up there, or close by (witness Sauganash, Mayfair, the suburb of Park Ridge) but tons of people are here for just a couple of years. They often move on because of work. Even within the city people move a lot. When you don’t have deep roots things like traffic and a bad winter can shake you loose more easily.

    @John B – I’m not trying to draw a causal line between concealed carry and violent crime rates. It’s more that in the city we feel concealed carry was shoved down our throats by voters downstate.


    1. Minnesotans are nice without being at all friendly. They’ll be congenial to your face but rarely ever want to engage with new people on a level deeper than that. It took me a long time to realize that “we should get together sometime!” just means, “hi!” to Minnesotans.


  4. How does the graph compare with the stats on who is actually moving out of/moving into a state? I’m guessing that the result, on average across a state, is some balance between cost of living and employment, on the whole. Maine & WV are outliers for that theory, so my explanation for those would be that everyone who wanted to leave Maine has already and that WV is insular enough that people don’t look outside their box.

    (I hate discussing articles like this when I can’t see all the data. Really, couldn’t they have shown us the numbers for all 50 states?).


  5. To have a more accurate study you’d have to control for the Eeyore factor or at least determine if Eeyore personalities are spread evenly throughout the 50 states or not. A preponderance of gloomy gusses will skew individual state results.


      1. I didn’t reply to that one because I think it’s gospel truth. There really is a difference in temperament. (Although I suspect that Maine has a lot of Eeyores–at least that’s my guess. But maybe an Eeyore does better with a laid-back lifestyle, rather than a huge commute and high taxes?) There seem to be multiple factors, none of which is all-powerful):

        1. Terrible economy/ingrained poverty (Nevada, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi)

        2. Strong local identity (Texas, Oregon, Maine, Hawaii)

        3. High taxes, long commutes, and being sent to places you don’t want to go by career forces beyond your control (NY, NJ, CT, MA)

        I think we’re seeing the interplay of those multiple factors.

        Isn’t it funny that Michigan isn’t on the get-me-out-of-here list? I get the feeling that the natives love it there, it’s just it’s really hard to make a living.

        Also, it occurs to me that Nevada and Arizona have a lot of people who have been priced out of CA, so they may be unhappily comparing their new home to CA.

        I suspect that being where you want to be (rather than where you’ve been sent) is pretty crucial, and would explain why certain unlikely places (Maine and WV) are happier with where they are. Almost nobody gets sent to Maine or WV against their will.


      2. I’ve never been to Maine. I’ve been to all the lower 48 states except those in New England. (I once had brunch in Stamford, Conn, but that’s it.)


      3. Doug,

        Why the Louisiana hate?

        I would have thought with all the Louisiana state pride, the results would be more like Maine than Mississippi.


      4. “Doug,

        “Why the Louisiana hate?”

        I am told it has changed a lot since I got the hell out of Dodge lo these many moons ago, but some of the reasons include — but are not limited to:

        1. Pervasive corruption. Used to be that winding up on the wrong side of the wrong folks could get even white people killed. Probably not that bad anymore, but who wants to experiment and find out for sure?

        2. Racial things. The fact that the sentence above contains the phrase “even white people” is an indicator for what life could be like for a lot of the minority population. More than a dozen years ago, the Baton Rouge Advocate did a series on “Leaving Louisiana,” detailing why people got the hell out of Dodge. Quite a few of the stories told by African-Americans concerned how much greater economic opportunity they found elsewhere — and this was the last decade of the 20th century. It also held true for college educated African-Americans who had been looking to start small businesses: couldn’t get loans in Louisiana, got loans and launched successful businesses in Atlanta or Houston or wherever.

        3. Closed hierarchies, especially in business. If your grandfather wasn’t somebody, you weren’t anybody. This is not a recipe for attracting new talent, or indeed for retaining the talented sons and daughters of people who happened to move there. That’s my story, and that of most of my peers, very, very few of whom are still in the state. Bobby Jindal — two years behind me at school — is one who did return.

        I’m sure there’s more, but I have gotten distracted and let my train of thought pull into the switching yard.


  6. I wonder if that correlates with the commute time data from the census. I could see how MD people who commute to DC and CT people who commute to NYC could be fairly unhappy. More leisure time makes people happy. Sleep deprivation makes people unhappy.


  7. Maryland is one of the most expensive states in the country to live in, with high cost of housing and commute times, so it doesn’t surprise me at all. Add in that many people who work in DC live in Maryland but don’t plan to work in DC forever, and you’ve got a recipe for general ennui. I’ve lived here most of my life and am happy with my particular job situation, but sometimes when I look at housing prices and cost of living in other states, I shed a little tear, for sure.


  8. when I lived in CT, everyone was so grumpy. It is partly the taxes and housing prices and inequality (it has the richest and the poorest cities) but it was a combination of obnoxious New Yorkers combined with Grumpy Yankees. As one of the former, I can say this. I think Texans don’t want to move because they know no one else would put up with their nonsense. I agree about state identity: Oregon, VT,and Maine have this. In NH they have really low taxes.


    1. Texas is big enough that if you don’t like the West Texas desert, you can move to Houston or Galveston and enjoy (!) humidity and palm trees. If you don’t like Southern culture, you can leave East Texas for San Antonio. If you can’t stand hippies, you can leave Austin. If you hate yuppies, you can leave Round Rock and buy a ranch and have long horns and clean your guns.

      As somebody was pointing out on a thread I was on recently on the subject of moving to Texas, the internal diversity is huge. Choose two cities that are on opposite ends of Texas–the driving time between the two is likely 10 hours.


      1. Also, if you like beer, sausage, kolaches and polkas, there are a number of Czech-heavy areas in Texas.

        There are Spanish colonial mission churches, 19th century German and Czech painted churches, Sea World San Antonio, the Alamo, the San Antonio Riverwalk (thank you, FDR!), the NASA tour at Houston (you can see the Apollo 13 control room–it’s tiny!), and lots of other fun stuff.


  9. For Oregon I definitely think it’s a lot of people who have moved here in the last 10 years or so. I mean, I don’t have any friends who were born here (as I was) and where I work only one other person out of 20 employees was born in-state. Everyone else is from Pennsylvania, California, New York, or Texas. So a lot of the population is people who chose to live here, they don’t just live here by default because they were born here. Of course those people don’t want to move out of state: they came here on purpose.


      1. I’ve only ever watched the first episode, I think.

        I’m not sure when (I was busy raising kids in the late 80s and all through the 90s) Portland stopped being an industrial manufacturing center and a busy port, a city that had a lot of working-class and lower-middle-class neighborhoods and jobs, and turned into a hipster artistic anti-car haven for youngish people who want lots of services but can’t find the full time well-paid jobs that give government enough taxes to pay for them, but it has been infuriating. The song at the beginning of the first episode … the thing about satire being funny is that you HAVE TO EXAGGERATE, and that’s no exaggeration. Very little of the first episode was exaggerated-I have overheard people asking questions about how the animal that became their dinner was raised, although it never went as far as names and who its friends were. I routinely ask where the fish was caught, all that is true Portland style–but it always was, even when I was a kid, because timber means our watersheds are important and fish are indicator species. And we have had places like “In Other Words” (the feminist book store) all along. I mean, we do have Powells (which isn’t just one store location either).

        Portlandia makes me think of so many things I don’t like about what has changed here, and it’s also just not funny enough to make me laugh about them. At the same time, a lot of that stuff was here all along. What it misses is the Portland doesn’t really represent Oregon. The rest of Oregon thinks of Portland (and maybe Eugene, where the University of Oregon is) as “those dirty liberal hippies” and has for decades, longer than I’ve been alive.


      2. I’ve watched LOTS of Portlandia. We were even watching episodes while I was in labor with our last baby

        Here’s a clip where a punk guy goes into a coma in 1986 and wakes up to find that the yuppies have taken over Portland.

        I also like the Women and Women First Bookstore skits.

        I’m a Washingtonian, but I grew up watching KATU Portland TV because that’s what we could pick up, and I find the transformation mind-blowing.


      3. Kai,

        Sorry, I didn’t read the end of your post carefully enough to see that Eugene gets an honorable mention.


  10. I also think people underestimate how much they hate the place they will move to. My mom moved here to NC from CT. She absolutely HATES it. She likes that she has a part time job, a great house, and sees her grandchildren but overall if she could get the hell out of here and back up north, she would be gone in a heartbeat.


    1. Yes! This happens a lot, especially in areas that people retire to after visiting for the two months out of the year that the place is actually habitable. In my family, we had a great-uncle and his wife leave CA, move to a pretty nice part of WA, and then head back to CA in just a couple of years.


  11. Re: New Jersey, in the past few years I’ve watched friends and family, especially those of retirement age, flee central Jersey for points south. They gripe about traffic and weather, but in the end their real reason for leaving the state is taxes, especially better property taxes and better deals on taxation of retirement income. (Anecdotally, I’m hearing about a large number of New Jersey schoolteachers retiring to Delaware.)


  12. In MN, my husband worked in a company that was moving a whole department to AZ. No one took them up on the offer to relocate except the few non-MN natives. Or at a campus-wide lunch, the guest speaker sat with us and asked “where are you all from?” and 9/10 were from MN, and I was from WI.

    My kids refused to go to college here.

    After 15 years, I’m finally ok with MN. I think it has to do with moving out to the boondocks and having woods and a meadow and water around me. That, and teaching online, is pretty conducive to being content.


  13. When we moved from the east coast to Wisconsin, I was shocked by how many people I met lived within a few miles of where they grew up. I think the culture is not necessarily one of mobility in the upper Midwest. People stick close to family and home. I hated it here at first, but now I’d have a hard time leaving. It really is very family-friendly.

    (But they must have taken this poll BEFORE this miserable winter….I think every single one of us wanted to leave on those negative 20F days!)


    1. I live just across Central Park from where I grew up. But that is not common in NYC, for sure. My wife and I are the only married couple we know both of whom grew up in Manhattan. (We know some other individuals who grew up in Manhattan, but no other couples where both spouses did.)


    1. From the comments:

      “Seattle is a wonderful city. However, had I know then what I know now, I could have saved myself a lot fo grief. I suffered from SAD and Seattle is the SAD capital. It took me 8 painful years to realize that my disorder was not going to improve in Seattle.”

      Well, duh.


      1. PNW winters are depressing. Maybe I’m nostalgic now, but I’d trade a winter of 35 degrees and raining every day for one of -30 every day. Or maybe the solution is for everyone to move to Southern California.


    2. From a Westchester commentor:

      “”Useful walks” with shops and gathering places for everyone is a big deal. Middle-schoolers in the town should be able to walk to the eateries (pizza, hot dog, creperie, etc.) and playgrounds by themselves. They should not have to be driven by a caregiver.”

      Two thoughts:

      1) A very good idea. 2) He’s got a creperie in his neighborhood. Holy cow!

      And a third thought:

      That article would be a very good 11D springboard.


  14. I like the idea of the check list. Ultimately, though, I think, some things end up trumping others, except for those who really have infinite choices (but, who is that, really, other than Bill Gates, and then, his family’s choices are constrained in other ways. I guess, the very rich but still anonymous might not have trumps).

    I got to say, though, on the checklist. Call a local therapist to get the low down on kids in the neighborhood? Would a therapist really do that. I have to run that by the ones I know, who, I think, are pretty rigorous about client privacy (especially since they recognize that people will put the numbers together to identify people).


  15. It’s striking how many of the happy states are also non-ethnically diverse states and how well the stats map to ethnic diversity–there’s a paler band that goes through much of “less diverse” America right down the middle. Quite a few of the star states are famously undiverse: Oregon, Montana, Maine. (I had some numbers but then cut them out, realizing that the white non-Hispanic category was going to be a pain.)

    Then you have Hawaii and Texas–both are quite diverse and don’t want to move. However, in both cases, “diversity” comes primarily via non-African-American minorities–Asians/Pacific Islanders in Hawaii and Hispanics in Texas.

    On reflection, it may not even be ethnic diversity per se, but the desire to leave may map more exactly to the percentage of African Americans in the population (the presence of Louisiana and Mississippi on the unhappy list is very suggestive–those are the two most black states).

    Here’s a list of states by percentage of African-American population:

    That list is a very close match to the map, although I think it probably doesn’t explain Arizona, Nevada and California. CA has nearly 7% and is happier than Arizona (4%) and Nevada (8%), both of the latter of which are a sad dark green color.


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