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Voting With Your Feet

Who's Voting with their Feet for Texas and Why

Recent articles in the Texas Monthy and the New York Times provide some useful insight on why Texas has been gaining migrants at such a high rate.


Flag of Texas.


Back in May, I wrote about how Texas has become a major magnet for people "voting with their feet" from other states. I built on a Washington Post article addressing that issue. More recently, Texas Monthly and Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times have published additional articles on the same topic, both of which shed some further light on these matters. Overall, both articles reinforce my and others' previous conclusion that Texas' success is primarily due to  cheap housing (thanks to having dramatically weaker land-use restrictions than many states on the east and west coasts), low taxes, and extensive job opportunities created in part by relatively low regulation.

Here's Manjoo's summary of Texas' appeal:

As the Golden Gate shuts, the Lone Star beckons. If you're looking for an affordable, economically vibrant city that is less likely to be damaged by climate change than many other American cities, our data shows why Texas is a new land of plenty. For the many hypothetical life scenarios I ran through our quiz, the suburbs around Dallas — places like Plano, McKinney, Garland, Euless and Allen — came up a lot. It's clear why these are some of the fastest-growing areas in the country. They have relatively little crime and are teeming with jobs, housing, highly rated schools, good restaurants, clean air and racial and political diversity — all at a steep discount compared to the cost of living in America's coastal metropolises.

Manjoo also notes, as have other analysts, that much of the in-migration to Texas (about 42% in 2019) comes from California, which suffers by comparison because of its much higher taxes and living costs.

Here is the Texas Monthly's summary of Texas's growth:

The Texas population grew by about four million people in the past decade—far more than any other state in raw numbers, and enough as a percentage to make it the third-fastest-growing state in the nation over that period, behind Utah and Idaho. Roughly 3,800 more people move here every week than move out of state. Tick down any list of the fastest-growing cities in the country, and Texas shows up again and again. Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio all landed on the list of cities with a population gain of at least 100,000 over the past decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, which released its latest data in August. Frisco easily topped the list of large cities, followed by a lot of other suburbs and exurbs, such as New Braunfels, McKinney, and Conroe….

That growth, of course, has come with plenty of hand-wringing about everything from an overheated housing market to fears of a hostile takeover by liberal coastal elites. News headlines have stoked those worries in the past two years. And then there was Greg Abbott's 2018 campaign slogan: "Don't California My Texas." But perhaps unsurprisingly, partisans may have it wrong.

For one thing, despite all the public focus on Californication, there are intriguing signs that many of the newest arrivals share key characteristics with lifelong Texans. Many are coming for abundant jobs, lower taxes, fewer regulations, and a more reasonable cost of living…..

The Texas Monthly also emphasizes how much of the states gain in population comes from ethnic and racial minorities (particularly Hispanics and Asians), and that the state has been a magnet for immigrants from abroad, as well as domestic migrants from other parts of the US.

The article further notes that, despite much speculation to the contrary, the influx of foot voters may have only a modest impact on Texas's political balance:

[A]ccording to Derek Ryan, a GOP political consultant who leads voter-targeting efforts for candidates up and down the ballot, there's very little data to support either argument—that Texas is growing more conservative because of ideological sorting or that it's becoming more liberal at the hands of Californians…

According to Ryan's best analysis, 50.4 percent of his possible new Texans were likely Democratic voters, and 49.6 percent were likely Republicans. "So, you know," he said, "we hear a lot about these people moving from blue states and bringing blue-state politics with them, but it doesn't necessarily appear that that's the case. It's closer to right in the middle. There are certainly some hard-core liberals moving here that are still voting that way, but it appears that it's a wash as far as Republicans versus Democrats."

As the article mentions, this undercuts both conservative worries that migration will lead to the "Californification" of Texas and concerns (mostly on the left) that foot voting will lead to a "big sort" in which polarization is exacerbated by people increasingly moving to homogeneous ideological enclaves. It turns out that people with a wide range of political views like to move to places with ample job opportunities, cheaper housing, and relatively low taxes. Both articles also mention that the parts of Texas experiencing the most growth are ones that are racially and ethnically diverse, with large immigrant communities. This suggests that people are increasingly open to living in diverse areas, and that - at the very least - foot voting is not contributing to ethnic and racial segregation.

In Chapter 5 of my book Democracy and Political Ignorance and Chapter 6 of the more recent Free to Move, I go over several reasons why both "big sort" concerns and worries that migration will fundamentally alter the political balance of states are overblown. So far, at least, the Texas experience is consistent with my analysis.

The story of Texas's success with foot voters is not just about the policies of the GOP-dominated state government. Most of the fast-growing parts of the state discussed in the above-referenced articles have Democratic-controlled local governments, most notably the cities of Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and most of their respective suburbs. The Democrats who govern these cities have little love for GOP policies on social issues. But, unlike Democratic-controlled local governments in some other states, they set up relatively few obstacles to new housing construction and job creation.

As I have previously emphasized, acknowledging Texas' success in attracting foot voters does not mean we have to approve of all of the state's policies. Progressives and others can learn valuable lessons from some of the policies, even as they rightly decry abuses as the awful SB 8 anti-abortion law, and Texas Republicans' reprehensible role in efforts to overturn the 2020 election. In my previous post on Texas and foot voting, I also explain why the state's success is in significant part based on policies that the national GOP has moved away from. Republicans, too, can stand to learn some lessons from Texas.

I should also note that nearly all of the data on Texas' success in attracting migrants predates the enactment of SB 8. If SB 8 remains in force (it might still be invalidated either by Texas state courts or by further federal litigation), it could potentially reduce the state's attractiveness to foot voters.

Although I personally support broad abortion rights and hate SB 8, my tentative judgment is that - for the vast majority of potential migrants - housing costs, taxes, and job opportunities matter far more than abortion. Among other considerations, birth control provides a valuable alternative to abortion for many (though admittedly not all) women, while substitutes for housing and job opportunities are harder to come by. Over the last decade or two, variation in abortion restrictions does not seem to have been a significant driver of migration decisions.

But, due to the influence - up till now - of Roe v. Wade - we don't have any recent evidence of the impact of abortion restrictions as draconian as those of  SB 8. If the law remains in force, its impact on Texas' appeal to migrants remains to be seen. It's certainly possible I am underestimating its potential effects.

With that important caveat, Texas's success in attracting foot voters deserves recognition, and provides useful lessons for other states. Liberal publications such as the Times, the Post, and the Texas Monthly deserve credit for acknowledging that and for their efforts to investigate the issue.

NEXT: Court Refuses to Seal File in Libel Lawsuit

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  1. "less damaged by climate change" = currently not a victim of failed liberal policies. What is disingenuous line. Also climate change in not real.

    As for the actuality of living in Texas, I think it sounds better on paper than practice. I have nothing against the Lone Star state, but it has a distinct lack of culture that even many other red states have readily available. Housing is cheap though especially outside of the major cities. Personally though I would prefer something up north.

    1. Also climate change in not real.

      Yeah, that's why we're still covered in mile-thick glacial ice.

      I have nothing against the Lone Star state, but it has a distinct lack of culture that even many other red states have readily available.

      For instance?

      1. "still covered in mile-thick glacial ice"

        When people these days say "climate change" , it is shorthand/code for "man-made carbon-caused climate change" or "anthropogenic climate change"

        1. Ill-informed, topically ignorant people and/or those dishonestly pushing an agenda (on both sides of the issue) use it that way.

        2. Texas is already a lot more than 2 or 3 degrees hotter than California, and people are moving there by the millions. Florida is very close to sea level, and a lot hotter than New York, and people are moving there by the millions.

          Which is how we know that climate change is not a big concern for most people.

      2. Texas has plenty of culture. I personally am not a fan of the western/cowboy culture (although I do prefer the Austin cosmic cowboy style of country music) but the Hispanic culture here is great. And nobody gives a shit who appropriates it.

    2. There isn't a single place on the planet that lacks culture. You won't understand any place unless you live there.

    3. Man, Dave Smith just ripped you a new one on his podcast with Angela McCardle. I watched it and honestly your appeal to authority to the "scientists" was troubling. There are "hard" scientists who disagree with the vaccine efficacy and mandates as well (they are not vaccines in a traditional sense but somewhat effective preemptive prophylactics but not vaccines).

      As a libertarian you should always question the "experts" and their agendas (usually follow the money). Fauci and Collins failed miserably and in any rational govt they would be fired. We don't know where this virus came from (and they have a vested interested to push the natural origin), they denied any responsibility, overreacted in unproductive ways with unintended consequences, double downed on one strategy (vaccines), and then found a scapegoat then they failed. Sort of like any govt organization that is paid to protect us and fails.

  2. "According to Ryan's best analysis, 50.4 percent of his possible new Texans were likely Democratic voters, and 49.6 percent were likely Republicans. "

    So, the immigrants ARE likely shifting Texas politics, just not dramatically. Yet.

    1. Yeah, to say nothing of all those Democratic voters who would have been aborted if Texas hadn't made abortion a practical impossibility. Though it will take about 20 years before that has an actual impact.

      One of the interesting subplots to the abortion debate is now neither side is acting in its own selfish best interests. Given that the majority of aborted fetuses would have grown up to vote Democrat, Democrats should oppose abortion and Republicans should favor it.

      1. Did you know that having children makes people more conservative?

        1. I think you’ve got cause and effect reversed. People who have large families tended to be more conservative to begin with.

          1. I think you’ve got cause and effect reversed.

            Maybe. Maybe not. That's actually addressed in the piece he linked to.

            1. Addressed, yes, but not persuasively.

          2. Not even just large families. People who have children in general.


        2. Well I will say every jewish liberal women I dated in my 20's never married or had kids...that seems to be a problem in the jewish community..the women are so "woke" they never get married or have kids.

      2. if Texas hadn't made abortion a practical impossibility

        Planned Parenthood says otherwise.

        1. People who are sufficiently motivated will find abortions But the number of abortions in Texas is down dramatically

          1. So...not a "practical impossibility" then.

            1. For a lot of Texas women, yes, a practical impossibility.

              1. Pro tip: "Impossible" does not mean the same thing as "inconvenient". Has anybody checked numbers of abortions in adjoining states for a sudden jump?

                1. Impossible does not mean inconvenient but if you live in poverty and your choices are groceries or a trip out of state for an abortion you’re going to buy groceries. For lots of Texas women it is a practical impossibility. Not everyone has the strength to make Herculean efforts.

                  You’re being the same pedantic asshole Wuz is. Just because you can think of one more thing she could have done doesn’t change the practicalities of it.

                  1. Nobody is being pedantic.
                    You're being illiterate and stupid. Read the PP link.

                    1. I did read it. PP is putting a happy face on a grim situation and you're being a pedantic asshole.

                      Where is the funding coming from to pay for all these poor women to travel to another state, spend a couple of days there, and have the abortion? What about women who aren't able to travel? What about single mothers with children whom they have to take care of? What about women who are the working poor and can't afford to take three days off work? There's a long list of women for whom this is not a viable option.

                      And you're being pedantic by harping on the word "impossible" -- aha, if something is theoretically possible, by definition it's not impossible. And while true, that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the practical reality of many women's lives, who will not be able to maneuver through the roadblocks the state has enacted. Pro tip: If there are multiple plausible interpretations of what someone says, the one that makes him look like an idiot is probably not the one he intended. But you already knew that; you're just being a pedantic asshole.

                    2. Also, I've read the Texas statute, and it's not crystal clear that the $10,000 bounty doesn't apply to persons who help pregnant women travel out of state to obtain an abortion. I think the better argument is that the statute would not apply to helping someone get an abortion out of state, and I think that's how the courts would probably read it, but the statute doesn't actually say that. So, if I give a poor woman in Texas the money to travel to New Mexico for an abortion, I could see some anti-abortion activist suing me and claiming that the statute must be read broadly to include any assistance, in state or out of state. Even if the courts said the statute only applies to in-state abortions, I would still have to pay a lot of money to defend myself.

                    3. I did read it. PP is putting a happy face on a grim situation and you're being a pedantic asshole.

                      That's exactly the sort of ad hominem you're always whining about being on the receiving end of, you hypocrite.

                      Where is the funding coming from to pay for all these poor women to travel to another state, spend a couple of days there, and have the abortion?

                      Not the abortion-seeking women the aid is being offered to. That's why it's called "aid".

                      And you're being pedantic by harping on the word "impossible" -- aha, if something is theoretically possible, by definition it's not impossible.

                      No, I'm not, you lying piece of shit. I'm rebutting your "made abortion a practical impossibility" generalization. What you're doing now is dishonestly trying to claim you said something other than what you actually said and lying about what your opponent has said, like you always do, because you're a lying piece of shit

                    4. OK, so you don't understand ad hominem. Ad hominem is "You are a bad person so you have a bad argument." Saying that you are being a pedantic asshole, however, goes to the argument itself, since it is the pedantry that is being addressed. The asshole part is a separate issue. That would be ad hominem if it were standing alone, but it's not. It's saying (1) your argument is pedantic; and (2) by the way, you're also being a jerk.

                      And of course the aid isn't coming from the women themselves, but that doesn't answer the question of where it is coming from.

                      And, as usual, you've chosen the least likely interpretation of what I said and run with it. Correcting your misinterpretations is not claiming I said something other than what I said; it's correcting your misinterpretation.

                      The charitable interpretation is that you honestly don't understand the argument; the less charitable interpretation is that you're being a pedantic asshole.

                    5. Also, I've read the Texas statute, and it's not crystal clear that the $10,000 bounty doesn't apply to persons who help pregnant women travel out of state to obtain an abortion.

                      I think it's crystal clear. The statute provides for that penalty for aiding or abetting an abortion that is performed in violation of this subchapter. An out-of-state abortion, regardless of heartbeat, would not have been performed in violation of that subchapter.

                    6. David, I agree that that's the better argument. But would you agree that that wouldn't stop some anti-choice zealot from filing suit anyway, thus requiring someone who helps a woman cross a state line to spend time and money defending it?

                      The argument on the other side is that if the assistance took place within Texas -- I gave her the money, and we were both in Texas at the time -- that it's the assistance that gives rise to the cause of action, and not where the abortion was ultimately performed. It's a weak argument, but I've seen worse.

                  2. But you really should go for the trip, because if you don´t, you will end up having to buy way more groceries and generally have too many expenses you can´t afford.

  3. For now SB8 only affects women who can't easily take a trip out of state. People who have enough mobility to move to Texas may not worry about an occasional trip back home if birth control fails.

    1. Here is the dirty little secret, in 2022 there is little need for abortion. No one is fleeing back home to avoid getting back alley abortion. That is all just a ruse, a political ploy, to make you think there is an actual controversy when there is none.

      1. Right, Jimmy, there's little need for abortion, which explains why there are over a million of them a year.

        1. Those numbers are generally not accurate and there is a pretty good argument that they are not necessary either.

  4. I'm going to have to quibble with your statement that "the cities of Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and most of their respective suburbs" are Democratic controlled. The cities are, yes. But the suburbs that you mentioned as actually showing significant growth, such as Plano, McKinney, and Allen (all in Collin County, just north of Dallas), are generally staunchly conservative. The big cities are Democratic controlled, but the counties surrounding them tend to be Republican controlled and much more conservative. There's often a significant difference in politics of big urban areas and their suburban or rural cousins, in any state.


      The use of the term "cities" as synonymous with local government is problematic for several reasons: There are two basis types of local government: counties and municipalities. Both cities and counties have elected leadership, but not necessarily partisan contests. The largest ones are Harris Courty (City of Houston), Dallas (City of Dallas), Tarrant (Fort Worth), Bexar (San Antonio)). These local governmental units have overlapping territories and you can't really generalize about them statewide, at least not without making appropriate qualifications as to size or area.

      At the level of statewide generalization, a major problem are the vast differences in size and population among both counties and cities generally. Notably, Harris County is larger than many foreign countries in population, while the smallest rural counties may have more farm animals than humans. Several counties have a population of less than 1,000. So, it is not really meaningful to makes quantitative statements about the number or percentage of counties having particular characteristics. Nor is it meaningful to say that counties are larger than cities.
      See ranking of Texas counties here:

      Additionally, and as a further twist to the two types, counties and large cities both have self-governing enclave municipalities/cities within their perimeters.

      So, when discussing political control at the local level, it's nessessary to identify the relevant territorial units or limit generalizing statements to the larger ones.

      And in a more comprehensive assessment you also have to consider the judicial branch, with trial court electoral districts largely matching the county (but not everywhere and not all types of lower-level courts) and appellate court districts comprising multiple counties. All this is relevant to who gets elected and whether races in some categories of courts are competitive while others are not.

      And then there are of course numerous school districts (ISDs), special districts, and other governmental entities with elected leadership.

  5. Close to 100% could be assigned a political party? How did he manage that?

  6. "...on the left that foot voting will lead to a "big sort" in which polarization is exacerbated..."

    And that right there tells you the author's piece is utter garbage.

    Democrats thrive on polarization -- especially racial -- and have ridden the hate train to political power since at least Reconstruction!

  7. At this rate how long will it take Texas to become the most populous state?

    At present the 4 most populous states are

    New York

    Both Texas and Florida are growing faster than the other two.

    1. FWIW, between 2010 and 2020 CA's population grew by a little over 2M, and TX's by 4M, so TX is whittling the distance by 2M per decade, and they are 10M apart, so 5 decades if current patterns hold.

      That current patterns will hold for 5 decades is ... not something I'd bet my life on.

      1. But that's looking at the rate over the last decade. Exit from California rose dramatically about a year ago, and entry dropped even more dramatically two years ago.

        Wouldn't take 5 decades at the present trend.

        1. Your link says the rate of net emigration is maybe 240k-90k, or 150k ... per some unspecified period. The dots on that graph are 12 months apart, but 150K per year seems unlikely. Bad journalism. Let's guess they mean 150K per month, or 1.8M per year. Then the crossover would be 5 years.

          That might happen, or it might not. My sense is that the pendulum is swinging, e.g. in the last Seattle mayoral election the republican won by a 60:40 margin. I have friends there who voted for him, saying it is the first time they voted for an R in their lives. The San Fran mayor is giving law-n-order speeches. So, just personally, I wouldn't be betting the life savings on the trends continuing. Or that they won't 🙂

          1. Yeah, my only point there is that averaging over the past decade conceals more recent trends.

            To be sure, if current rates were to continue for a year or two, California might end up moderating the policies that are driving people out, and Texas might become less attractive.

            Or, who knows? The exit of people who hate those policies might make it politically feasible to double down on them, in a sort of state level Curley effect.

  8. TX is a hell of a lot more libertarian than the People's Republic of CA, that is for damned sure. Why do people move to TX, aside from the immediate paycheck boost (no state income tax)? Great business climate. Hugely diversified industry sectors. It is simply more free.

    Too flat for my liking. Harvey cured any thought of Houston.

    1. Texas is so damn big it’s got some of almost everything. The coastal plain and West Texas/the panhandle are flat as can be, but East Texas consists of really nice rolling hills and the Hill Country west and north of San Antonio is (of course) very hilly and has areas that could qualify as mountainous.

      San Antonio in particular is a great place to live. Big but not too big, a beautiful hilly city with lots of history and culture.

      1. Isn't San Antonio pretty pricey these days?

  9. British comedian Chris Addison:
    The age-old question; am I in Texas, or am I in Saudi Arabia? Large areas of desert? Check. Distinctive headgear? Check. Religious lunatics are standard? Check. Somewhat punchy attitude toward immigration? Check. They're talking, but I can't understand what they're saying? Check. Hatred of women masquerading as moral high ground? Check.

    1. So you're a fan of bigoted ignorance. Check.

      1. Aww, did that mean comedian hurt your lil feelings?

  10. and ordinary Joes(or Jose's) can own/rent full automatic weapons(don't tell Alec Baldwin!)
    HeliBacon has an ever-growing selection of rare, unique, and historic fully automatic firearms for our guests to experience and enjoy.

    Come to Texas and admire the sleek German engineering of our MP5s, feel the earth-shaking rumble of our M2 ‘Ma Deuce’ .50 caliber heavy machine gun, and zip off a full magazine in the blink of an eye with our Glock 18 machine pistol. Our vast arsenal has something for everyone, regardless of skill level.
    HeliBacon shooting events are sure to “arm you” with a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you won’t soon forget

    Field office for service delivery, safety courses, and Helicopter Hog Hunting: 6120 East State Hwy 21
    Bryan, Texas 77808

  11. Well yeah, if you are a highly paid liberal Californian, Texas offers you lower income tax rates (0% vs. 10%), cheaper houses (300K vs. 1.2M) and less crowded freeways.

    If you are smart, you might ask why that is the case.

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