Tell a lie long enough and it becomes the truth. In Rhode Island politics this has become the case with the idea that people are fleeing the Ocean State because of our uncompetitive tax structure. But a new local “think tank” has come to a decidedly different conclusion than some of the other local “think tanks” on this question.
“The academic literature is mixed on the question of whether tax rates influence where people choose to live, and research suggests that factors like employment opportunities and quality of life are more salient,” reads the report created by professors from Bryant University and Rhode Island College.
Here’s a chart from the report:
The report “Rhode Island’s Labor Force and Tax Policy in Perspective” was published by the Collaborative, a non-partisan think tank made up of the 11 colleges and universities in Rhode Island. The Providence Journal profiled the group’s efforts in a front page story today. It’s funded by the Rhode Island Foundation and puts college professors and academics together to research ideas related to politics (the governor, House speaker and Senate president “appointed a panel of policy leaders who are responsible for coming to consensus on research areas of importance to Rhode Island.”)
The Collaborative is investigating several areas of research – others include measuring the economic impacts of tax-free arts districts. You can read all their research briefs here.
The tax policy and migration study is politically significant because it draws very different conclusions than reports done by right-wing think tanks in Rhode Island that often generate much media attention and has become a talking point for local politicians.
Rhode Islanders, it concludes, pay less in income taxes than people in neighboring states, and we generally earn less money. It suggests Rhode Islanders aren’t moving to neighboring states anymore than people from neighboring states are moving to Rhode Island and that we aren’t moving to cheaper states like North Carolina and Florida anymore than people from neighboring states.
About unemployment, it says between 2006 and 2012, Rhode Island lost the most jobs from the construction industry followed by manufacturing and then transportation.
About education, it says, “In terms of educational attainment, the primary measure of a skilled labor force, the state ranks below Massachusetts and Connecticut. Perhaps because of this educational difference, Rhode Island has a greater share of its workforce in lower-paying occupations and a smaller portion of its workforce in higher-paying occupations.”
Clarification: Amber Caulkins said the Collaborative doesn’t vie itself as a think tank.
And here’s more on this research and whether or not people vote with their feet when it comes to tax policy.