The Mercatus Center, a think tank at George Mason University, recently released a study entitled “Freedom in the 50 States” that ranks the states on criteria falling into three categories: personal freedom, fiscal freedom, and regulatory freedom. Personal freedom includes rights such as gun ownership and the right to donate money to political campaigns. Fiscal freedom measures traits such as a state’s taxes and government spending. Regulatory freedom is concerned with rights such as the right to perform a job without being required to be a member of a labor union. The study found that the five “freest” states were North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, New Hampshire and Oklahoma (in that order). The five least free states were New York, California, New Jersey, Hawaii and Rhode Island.
The study also found that “red” states tend to score higher on the freedom rankings. Moreover, Americans appear to be migrating from “blue” states with high taxes and regulations to “red” states with more economic freedom. Focusing on changes in state populations from 2000 to 2011, the study found that New York experienced net migration of -9.2 percent and California experienced -4.2 percent. An Investor’s Business Daily analysis of the Mercatus Center’s data concluded that blue states (defined as having voted Democratic in the last two presidential elections) saw overall net migration of -0.3 percent, whereas red states saw a net migration of 2.2 percent. For purposes of the study, “net migration” excludes immigrants arriving from foreign countries as well as births.