Moving to Texas

By Andy May

“You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas” Davy Crockett, 1835

According to the Texas Tribune in 2016, Texas has become the top destination for people moving from other states and leading the way are people from California. Beginning in 2005, Texas has outpaced all other states in population growth. Half of the growth is due to people moving to Texas. From 2005 to 2013, 5.9 million people moved to Texas and 4.8 million of those came from other states. In 2013, net migration to Texas was 126,230, that is the difference between those moving to Texas and those moving away.

Further, Pew Research reports that Texas is the stickiest state. Meaning that more than 75% of those born in Texas are still here. Why is this? Davy Crockett also wrote the following to his children in 1836 after moving to Texas:

“I must say as to what I have seen of Texas, it is the garden spot of the world.”

Texas is my adopted state, I wasn’t born here, but I do agree with Mr. Crockett. It is a beautiful place and it is marvelously easy to live well here. John Steinbeck wrote in Travels with Charley:

“I have said that Texas is a state of mind, but I think it is more than that. It is a mystique closely approximating a religion. And this is true to the extent that people either passionately love Texas or passionately hate it and, as in other religions, few people dare to inspect it for fear of losing their bearings in mystery or paradox. But I think there will be little quarrel with my feeling that Texas is one thing. For all its enormous range of space, climate, and physical appearance, and for all the internal squabbles, contentions, and strivings, Texas has a tight cohesiveness perhaps stronger than any other section of America. Rich, poor, Panhandle, Gulf, city, country, Texas is the obsession, the proper study and the passionate possession of all Texans.”

How very true, we are all very proud of our state. Texas is also very welcoming of visitors and immigrants and well known for being friendly. This is a point of pride in the state and it shows. But, there are other reasons why people flock to our state.

The late Molly Ivins was not born in Texas either, but she was raised in the affluent River Oaks neighborhood of Houston, Texas, by her father “General Jim.” She graduated from St. John’s independent school, one of the top prep schools in the country. She has often been a critic of our state. She once said:

“I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults.”

Texas politics is famous, and rightly so. Texans acknowledge that some sort of government is required, but we keep it on a very short leash. Our Legislature is only allowed to meet once every two years to minimize the damage they can do. It also means all the legislators have “real” jobs and don’t rely solely on the government (in Texan that’s “gov’ment”). They are only allowed to meet for a maximum of 140 days, another rule meant to limit potential damage. About politics in Texas, Molly Ivins once said:

“Good thing we’ve still got politics in Texas – finest form of free entertainment ever invented.”

Another famous Texan is Kinky Friedman. He was born in Chicago, but his parents moved to a ranch near Austin when he was very young. He graduated from Austin High School in 1962 and the University of Texas at Austin in 1966. His nickname comes from his very curly hair. Friedman is Jewish, so naturally his band was called Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys. Friedman’s father hated the name of the band, which was a big part of the motivation for Kinky to keep it. The band produced 16 albums and several singles. Friedman was also a columnist for the Texas Monthly and has written several books. He was also a candidate for governor of Texas, receiving 13% of the vote. His campaign slogan was “Why the hell not?” Kinky once said:

“How can you look at the Texas legislature and still believe in intelligent design?”

Kinky was for decriminalizing marijuana, his reasoning was:

“We’ve got to clear some of the room out of the prisons so we can put the bad guys in there, like the pedophiles and the politicians”

Texas has had its share of colorful governors, one of my favorites is Ann Richards, who was born in Texas.  The photos below make that very clear.

Willie Nelson is a rare breed in Texas today, he was born here, in Abbot, Texas. His parents left him with his grandparents who raised him. The grandparents taught singing and music and started Willie on the guitar when he was only six. When he was young he and the family picked cotton along with the other citizens of Abbot, but Willie hated it. So, he earned extra money by singing in dance halls, taverns and honky-tonks from the age of 13. He graduated from Abbot High School and his first band, formed by his brother-in-law, was called The Texans. Willie once said:

“I’m from Texas and one of the reasons I like Texas is because there’s no one in control.”

Think about that when you consider Richard Daley and his son running Chicago, Tom Pendergast running Kansas City, Tammany Hall in New York. Corruption like that is not likely to happen in Texas, we never let anyone get that much control. Texas is the fifth most libertarian state in the country and the only major state with a large libertarian population. This is one of the few states where libertarians have someone on the ballot for almost every local and state office.

Government is not very important in Texas, this gives us a great advantage over our sister states.  We are not kind to politicians who want to “run” things. This goes back to our early days, Sam Houston once said (figure1):

Figure 1

OK, we’ve discussed the natural beauty of the state, the nice people and our so-called government. Another important reason people and businesses move to Texas is the business-friendly atmosphere and the robust economy. Texas is #1 in combined foreign and domestic business investment (link). It has also been the country’s top exporter for 14 years running, with $251 billion in exports, 16% of all US exports. Texas also outpaced California for high-tech exports ($6.3 billion) for the last 3 years. Texas was ranked #1 as a place to do business by U.S. CEO’s in 2016. Texas is also #1 in job creation, adding more than 1.8 million jobs since 2007.

More immigrants move to Texas from California than any other state, so contrasting the two states is instructive. Why has California become a state to escape from rather than a place to move to? Simply put, it has too much government, too many regulations and the taxes are too high (link).

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) says that California has the fourth-highest tax burden in the country. The state’s top marginal income tax rate is the worst in the country, and its top marginal corporate rate is not much better (40th). Its personal income tax progressivity is in last place.

ALEC also reports that California’s civil court system (law suits) is among the worst and the state ranks 44th in economic outlook. This is very demoralizing for businesses.

Only New York has higher net domestic out-migration than California from 2004 to 2013, when 1,394,911 abandoned California.

Last year, business location consultant Joseph Vranich wrote that

“in California, costs to run a business are higher than in other states and nations — largely due to the state’s tax and regulatory policies — and the business climate shows little chance of improving.”

Recently Jamba Juice, Toyota, Occidental, Carl’s Jr, Jacob’s Engineering and Kubota have all moved to Texas from California. In all, from 2008 to 2014, 219 businesses moved or moved operations from California to Texas. In the same period, California lost 1,510 businesses. Texas gained 37,553 jobs and $6.5 billion in investment, just from California. Texas has cheap energy, an educated work force, low taxes, minimal red tape and great universities. These are all very attractive to business.

From other areas, JP Morgan, Fannie Mae, and the German company Siemen’s Oil and Gas have also moved to Texas. The Austrian steel maker Voestalpine moved a large operation to Texas, as did the Chinese company Tianjin Pipe Group.

Figure 2 compares migration from Texas to several states and migration from the same states for 2013. In all cases, except for Oklahoma and Colorado, the net population movement is to Texas.


Figure 2 (source)

Regarding foreign immigration, the top three receiving states, in order, are California, Texas and Florida. 83% of immigrants to Texas are Asian or Latino, see figure 3.


Figure 3 (source)

Many foreign-born immigrants move to Texas from California, see figure 4.


Figure 4 (source)

From the Texas publication Origins of Immigrants to Texas:

“Since 2005, Texas has outpaced all other states in annual population growth. Almost half of this growth occurred because of people moving to Texas. Close to one in six of these movers immigrated to Texas from another country. Texas, with the nation’s second largest population, attracted the second highest number of immigrants between 2005 and 2013. Although immigration to Texas experienced a strong decline during the 2007-2009 recession, it has been on the rise since 2010. This rebound occurred even as Mexican immigration to Texas fell sharply. The recent decline in Mexican immigration has been partially offset by an increase in the number of non-Latin American immigrants, particularly those of Asian-origin. As a consequence, total [net] immigration to Texas in 2013 reached 126,230, the second highest level during the 2005-2013 time period. Given the state’s high rate of natural increase, a continuation of recent immigration trends will ensure strong population growth into the foreseeable future.”

Texas maintains a welcoming and friendly atmosphere and is very pro-business. We keep regulations to the minimum and taxes low. Our government does its best to stay out of the way and let people run their own lives. This seems to work; the people just keep moving here.