The average incomes and the net headcount of New Yorkers moving to other states hit an all-time high during the first full income tax-filing period affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, according to 2020-21 migration data released today by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Scroll to the bottom for interactive taxpayer migration map.

Based on a comparison of addresses reported on Form 1040 income tax returns filed by the same individuals and joint-filing couples in both 2020 and 2021, key trends documented by the IRS data include the following:

  • A total of 486,344 New York filers and their dependents moved to other states between 2020 and 2021, partially offset by 224,559 filers and dependents who moved into New York from other states in the same period.
  • New York’s net loss to other states came to 261,785 filers and dependents—a slight increase over the previous year’s record net outflow of 248,305 people. Among 26 states experiencing net outflows in 2020-21, only California had a bigger loss (331,760), and New York’s net out-migration was more than double that of the state with the third biggest loss, Illinois (105,109).
  • More than 90 percent of New York’s net taxpayer outflow to other states was from New York City, Long Island, and five lower Hudson Valley counties (Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Putnam and Dutchess).
  • The average adjusted gross income of New Yorkers moving to other states reached a new all-time high of $130,054—a 14 percent increase over the previous year’s $114,360. By contrast, the much smaller number of tax filers moving into New York in 2020-21 reported average incomes of $90,337.
  • California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey were the only other states whose outbound tax filers had average incomes exceeding $100,000 in 2020-21—and only Connecticut’s out-migrant average income of $133,409 exceeded New York State’s.
  • All 50 states gained more New York migrants than they lost to the Empire State, led by Florida with a net gain of 58,552 former New Yorkers, followed by net flows of 51,530 to New Jersey, 23,067 to Connecticut, 20,055 to Pennsylvania, and 17,312 to North Carolina.
  • The average income of all New Yorkers moving to Florida was $223,245—a 64 percent jump from 2019-20. Among New Yorkers’ other top destination states, the average incomes of New York migrants were $204,446 in Connecticut, $116,772 in New Jersey, $78,915 in Pennsylvania and $82,883 in North Carolina.

As shown below, the average incomes of Florida-bound New Yorkers roughly matched the total for all destination states in 2011-12 but have increased dramatically over the past 10 years—doubling even before the pandemic prompted a greater outflow of higher earners.

High-income movers

Adding more evidence that New York has been shedding higher earners, in particular, the Empire State also stood out in the proportion of outbound taxpayers reporting 2020 incomes of $200,000 or more, the highest of seven income categories reported in the IRS migration data. Filers in the $200,000-and-up bracket were 10.9 percent of all outbound New Yorkers. Only California (11.6 percent), New Jersey (11.2 percent), and Connecticut (11 percent) had larger relative outflows of high earners.

The average income of the 31,485 top-bracket New York households leaving the state was $571,832, exceeded in that category only by out-migrants from Connecticut ($594,720). In the nation as a whole, filers with incomes of $200,000 or more made up 7.1 percent of total interstate moves, and their average income in this category was $459,442.

Consistent with widespread reports and warnings of high-earning households fleeing the pandemic for Florida and other lower-taxed states, the 8,841 New York filers and dependents moving to Miami-Dade County had an average 2020 income of $671,075—including an average of $1.2 million for 3,644 migrants from Manhattan, reflecting 2,515 single- and joint-filer tax returns. Among the 3,541 U.S. counties and foreign country destinations for all New Yorkers leaving the state in 2020-21, the highest average income of all out-migrants was a whopping $6,666,667 reported for 64 Manhattan residents, reflecting 45 tax returns, moving to St. Lucie County in Florida. (In both cases, the averages could be heavily weighted by a subset of mega-earners with much higher incomes.)

The IRS data are consistent with Census Bureau estimates showing that New York lost 295,820 residents to net out-migration to other states during the 12 months ending July 1, 2021. The figures are different because the two datasets cover different periods, and because the more-inclusive Census Bureau estimates include migrants not counted in the IRS data, such as joint-filing couples who divorce, young adults no longer counted as dependents in the second year, and individuals (mainly seniors) who didn’t file tax returns in one or both years.

Top-line values for tax filer flows in and out of New York are broken down on state, county and regional levels in the map below.

About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is Empire Center's founder and a senior fellow.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

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