ANNAPOLIS – Over the past 20 years, Maryland has increasingly lost population to states on its eastern, western and southern borders, even as its economy continues to grow.
While the migration to the border states is not as great as it is to some others, particularly in the South, it is significant because Maryland continues to compete with those states for job-producing industries.
For example, the Marriott Corp. recently negotiated the richest publicly funded incentive package in Maryland’s history after the Fortune 500 company considered moving its headquarters to Virginia. Chairman J.W. “Bill” Marriott Jr. said he considered Virginia because of the lower cost of doing business there.
Maryland’s net population loss to the border states over the last 20 years is: 30,326 to Virginia; 17,817 to West Virginia; and 6,939 to Delaware, according to state-to-state migration data from the Internal Revenue Service. The only border state that did not gain over Maryland was Pennsylvania, which lost 208 people to Maryland.
Experts warn that the IRS data is not exact. It misses people who move into the state but, for one reason or another, do not file taxes. Also, it is sometimes skewed by mass movements of military personnel.
For example, the overall gain from Pennsylvania is attributed largely to the 1997 transfer of more than 1,500 federal civilian and military jobs from Warminster, Pa., to the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in St. Mary’s County. That helped reverse a trend that began in 1988, in which Maryland steadily lost population to Pennsylvania. The 1997 data show a net gain of residents from Pennsylvania of 169.
The numbers do, however, accurately reflect the trends in state-to-state migration, said Mark Goldstein in the Maryland Office of Planning.
“In the recent past, (the losses) would be the result of economic flows. I don’t know if it’s because of taxes, but if you look at the way Maryland’s economy was lagging as compared to other states in the area you would see that migration follows the economic trend,” Goldstein said.
Maryland does have a higher tax burden than its border states, according to the Tax Foundation, a conservative organization that tracks tax rates for the United States.
The state ranks 19th in the nation in the amount of total taxes paid as a percentage of income. Pennsylvania, the next closest state, trails by half a percent and is ranked 32nd in the nation. Virginia is 35th; Delaware ranks 37th; and West Virginia is lowest in the region at 42nd.
Overall, Maryland lost 9,656 residents to all states in 1997, 300 more than in 1996. Over the last 20 years, however, Maryland has gained a total of 64,284, from all states.
Maryland gained the most new residents in the mid-to-late 1980s, when the job creation rate was the fastest growing in the United States, Goldstein said. The state lost the most residents, however, in the early 1990s when the job creation rate began to lag behind the rest of the nation.
Now, that job rate is increasing again. Despite continued reductions in federal civilian employment, Maryland has had an increase in private-sector jobs. The state had a 2.1 percent increase in the number of jobs, from 28,400 in 1996 to 45,800 jobs in 1997.
Figures released in April show an increase of 57,000 jobs, making it the largest gain this decade, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Maryland Department of Labor Licensing & Regulation.
At first glance, the numbers seem contradictory to Goldstein’s theory. While the number of residents leaving the state is increasing, the economy is improving. The 1998 figures, when they are released, should show a reversal — fewer people leaving than moving in, Goldstein said.
Another theory on the losses, at least to the Southern states, is that older Maryland residents are retiring and moving to warmer climates.
The data reveals that Maryland has always had a steady stream of residents moving to Florida, for a net loss of 83,751 people to that state. In the last 20 years, Maryland lost 23,980 people to North Carolina, 16,841 to Georgia and 9,899 to South Carolina.
In recent years, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia have attracted larger numbers of residents 60 years of age and older. Nationally, in the last decade, 67 percent of the people moving to South Carolina were over age 60. North Carolina followed with 64 percent and Georgia with 33 percent.
“In our early and middle adult years, we’re tied down by our work and meeting the needs of our family members,” said Charles F. Longino Jr., a professor in the Reynolds Gerontology Program at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. As people retire and their responsibilities diminish, they have more freedom to move, Longino said.
Another trend luring Marylanders and others to North Carolina is its attractiveness to industry. Along with retirees, those in the prime of their work careers are opting to live near the Research Triangle Park — the areas between Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh, said Bill Tillman, state demographer with the North Carolina Data Center.
“Professionally, I have no idea why people are moving. Personally, I believe people are moving for the climate, for economic reasons, for the low level of unemployment and for the variety of climates,” Tillman said.