The incredible, shrinking New York

Changes are coming to the Empire State, and not the kind that Governor Cuomo would like to see. The shift in question is the state’s population relative to the rest of the nation. From the early days of the Union, New York was the most populous state in the US, making it a political powerhouse as well as an economic one. That all began to change in the second half of the 20th century. New York was overtaken in population by California in the 1970 census. In 2000 we were shoved into third place by Texas. And now, if current projections hold, New York will be out of the top three entirely, pushed out by Florida.

New York, whose status as the most populous state has long been ceded, will soon fall behind Florida into fourth place, a long-anticipated drop that is rife with symbolism and that could carry potentially serious economic consequences in coming years.

When the Census Bureau releases its latest population estimates on Monday, demographers expect that Florida and New York will be narrowly separated — perhaps by as little as a few thousand people — and that if Florida does not pass New York this time, it almost certainly will do so in 2014.

To clarify, New York is not actually decreasing in population… the state is simply growing more slowly than many others, particularly Florida. They cite a variety of factors, one of which being the drastic loss of manufacturing jobs in upstate which have been too great to overcome the modest population increase in the Big Apple. But there’s far more to it than that. Doug has a few theories over at Outside the Beltway.

Additionally, notwithstanding the tax benefits that Cuomo is offering businesses who meet certain conditions, there are plenty of other economic reasons why moving to New York isn’t going to be appealing either to businesses or individuals. Tax rates for individuals are far higher in New York than they are in Florida, for example, even in places where the upstate areas, where the cost of living is far lower than the areas in and around New York City. Employers may find it hard to recruit the right kind of people for the jobs they need even though Governor Cuomo’s program seems to be based around trying to get businesses to move to areas close to locations of campuses of the State University of New York, obviously on the theory that these schools would provide a good recruitment class for high-tech industries most especially. Finally, of course, there’s the question of just how much they can trust that future state legislatures or Governor’s won’t find it necessary to take away those tax breaks that are supposed to last ten years, or require businesses to certain regulations in order to continue receiving them. When faced with those issues on one side of the ledger, and the possibility of starting a business in a state like Florida that has a long history of favorable tax rates and a political culture that makes it unlikely that there will be massive tax increases in the near future, it’s easy to see why businesses might be skeptical about making the long trek to Rochester or Buffalo.

Doug also cites the weather, as does the previous New York Times article. Personally, while many people find the climate in the South appealing, I think it’s far from enough to cause this sort of shift. The state government wrings its hands over the loss of jobs, but continues to keep a moratorium on fracking, which has benefited our neighbors in Pennsylvania greatly. Stimulus plans to attract business such as the ones Doug describes sound great on paper, but do nothing to address the hoards of businesses who have already left one of the unfriendliest tax climates in the nation. Nanny state regulations make New York one of the least free in the nation and many upstate folks have simply tired of it.

The punishment for these policies will not be imposed by Washington or outside think tanks. It’s taking place before our eyes, and as people leave, the welfare rolls and unemployment lines swell and our congressional representation in Congress continues to shrink. (We lost two seats after the 2010 census and will likely lose at least that many more in 2020.) New York is taxing and regulating itself into a larger version of Detroit. The process is slowed because of the constant influx of wealth to Wall Street, but that’s not enough to staunch the bleeding, and the trend continues downward.

UPDATE: (Jazz) Changed “populace” to “populous” in the 1st paragraph. Thanks as usual to our army of free editors. 🙂