It’s true, New Yorkers are moving out in large numbers, going to other states. Nearly 200,000 people went to other states in 2016. That was more than any other state. Florida was the number one destination. New Jersey was the second most popular place New Yorkers chose to move to. What’s not completely clear is why?

“The why is something we can speculate on and surmise. People don’t fill out a survey when they move out of New York State,” said E. J. McMahon, research director of the Empire Center for Public Policy.

There are some educated guesses. Downstate, it’s about affordability. Things are just too expensive downstate. For upstate, it’s about a lack of opportunity.

“Upstate is not creating jobs. And you’re not going to hang out in Upstate New York waiting for a job to turn up,” McMahon said.

Upstate is where the overall net loss for the state is coming from. McMahon, who’s been crunching Census Bureau data said the impact is obvious.

“Fewer people, fewer taxpayers, fewer customers, fewer workers,” he added.

And the prime driver for economic growth in any region is people, according to McMahon. That’s why it’s challenging for many upstate communities, especially the rural areas, to make ends meet. Young people are leaving, making things even worse. Taxes go up and home values are sluggish. State government officials say they’ve been trying to help the shrinking upstate economy. Governor Andrew Cuomo and others before him, developed programs to boost economic activity. But a loss of population also means a loss in political power.

“The political influence and economic power downstate are a bigger factor in New York than at any time in New York’s history since the colonial era,” McMahon said.

That means downstate gets more attention. The state is set to lose more congressional seats this decade. Congressional seats are based on population compared to the rest of the country. The number  was at its highest in 1940. It’s been dropping ever since from 45 to 27 giving the Empire State less power in Washington.

There are a few counties that seem to buck the trend, including Saratoga County.

“The fastest and most steadily growing county in almost all of Northeast and certainly in Upstate New York for decades,” McMahon said.

Global Foundries definitely played a role, according to McMahon. But some of it has to do with Saratoga Springs with he racetrack as a tourism destination. McMahon said it’s one of the healthiest small cities in the entire Northeast.

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The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.