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Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM (EST)
American Economic Association
Anna Maria Mayda,
Millionaire Migration after the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”: Evidence from Administrative Data
Progressive taxation is highly polarized in the US, as some states have millionaire taxes while others have no state income tax at all. The 2017 “Tax Cuts and Jobs” Act (TCJA) amplified these differences by capping the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, which effectively reduced top tax rates in red states much more than in blue states. For example, among those making $1 million, the TCJA increased the tax gap between California and Texas by more than 3 percentage points of annual income. Many expect this new tax differential will set off a wave of millionaire tax flight, and a new “race to the bottom” in state taxes on the rich. The existing literature has found a wide range of estimates of the effect of taxation on the geographic mobility of top earners, with elasticities ranging from nearly zero to larger than one. The TCJA provides the largest natural experiment in a generation to test the influence of tax incentives on elite mobility in the U.S. We draw on confidential data from IRS administrative records, providing data on all top income earners in the country, showing their state of residence and migration patterns over time. We provide a difference-in-difference analysis of cross-state migration among top income earners, before and after the TCJA. We further conduct detailed heterogeneity analysis of those most exposed to the SALT cap (by AMT status), those with exceptionally high and persistent incomes ($2 million or more in multiple years), and across various measures of economic and social embeddedness in one’s home state (retirement age, income from capital rather than labor, business ownership, marital status, dual-earner couple status, children at home, and more). Finally, we estimate the revenue impacts of tax-flight migration. Will the TCJA weaken the capacity of states to provide services and address inequality?
Explaining the Decline in United States Internal Migration: The Role of Return Migration
The reasons behind the long, steady decline in U.S. interstate migration rates—from 3 percent in 1980 to 1.5 percent today—remain mysterious, despite extensive study by economists. Many have worried that this decline implies the labor market might adjust more slowly to shocks, potentially prolonging recessions and reducing growth. We investigate a heretofore untested hypothesis for the decline: individuals today are making fewer short-term “mistake” moves, i.e., moving to another state, staying for a short period, then returning to their state of origin, than in the past. If this is the case, the decline in interstate migration is a characteristic of a more flexible and dynamic economy, rather than a symptom of individuals being less able to make desirable moves—instead, individuals are more efficiently able to determine their ideal place of residence. To test this hypothesis, we rely on newly available data from the Panel Survey of Income Dynamics (PSID) to construct the long, detailed panel of migration histories needed to distinguish return moves from other types of migration. This new data allows the PSID to be used to study migration of the same individuals on an annual basis over its full length—approximately 50 years—allowing analysis of migration behavior over almost the entire lifespan for many respondents, and the ability to distinguish “mistake” return migrations from permanent moves, both before and during the decline in long-distance migration in the U.S. The rich information on PSID respondents will allow us to investigate the correlates with making one or more interstate moves, and how these relationships have potentially changed over time. Our study will show whether future research investigating the decline in migration should focus on an increasing ability for individuals to make efficient location decisions, rather than on forces keeping them from moving at all.
An Analysis of United States Domestic Migration via Subset-Stable Measures of Administrative Data
How does the likelihood of moving across U.S. regions vary with changes in statuses such as income, employment status, local and federal tax payments, number of children, or marital status; and how does the risk of a change in status vary given a move? Statistics for these and other relative risks are calculated via pseudo-experiments run on almost all people who earned formal market income in the U.S., 2001-2015, totaling about 1.6 billion households with 76 million long-distance moves. The Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel (CMH) statistic is adapted to this big data context. The key theoretical result of this paper shows that the CMH statistic is the unique aggregate risk ratio that satisfies some basic desiderata, notably "subset stability": if a statistic has value s₁ for one subset and s₂ for another, then the statistic for the union of the two sets is between s₁ and s₂. Using the CMH statistic and controlling for 13 household characteristics, moving households are more likely to see a drop in income than a rise, relative to the counterfactual of staying. The hypothesis that they are more likely to move to areas with lower local taxes than areas with higher taxes is not supported. Movers are more dynamic than stayers on almost all measures, and these effects persist over a decade past the move. Even federal tax liability shows greater volatility, with or without controls for changes in housing status, income, and so on. With such wide diversity in dynamics given moving, there can be no single population-level explanation for why households move.
Occupational Licensing and Job Mobility in the United States
This paper studies the association between occupational licensing and job hire and job separation rates along with earnings of job stayers and job-to-job movers. In contrast to previous studies, it attempts to provide macro-level estimates by relying on a novel Job-to-Job Flows database from the U.S. Census Bureau, covering the near universe of job transitions. The empirical analysis exploits variation in licensing regulation across states and industries and constructs indicators for both the share of employment subject to licensing (the extensive margin) and the strictness of regulation (the intensive margin). Results show that more extensive and stricter licensing are both associated with lower job mobility. This holds for job-to-job mobility as well as for transitions in and out of nonemployment. The strictness indicator points to lower job-to-job mobility from entry restrictions and renewal requirements to licensing, while education and training requirements may increase job-to-job mobility. The analysis also finds a negative association between licensing restrictions for people with a criminal record and job hire from nonemployment. Further analysis shows that interstate job-to-job mobility tends to be lower towards states with more extensive and stricter licensing regulation. The results from the analysis of earnings are generally mixed and mostly insignificant. However, there is some evidence of lower earnings gains from job-to-job moves to states with more licensing within the same industry, which may reflect lower productivity growth because of weaker reallocation of labour resources and reduced competition.
Spatial Influences in Upward Mobility
This paper extends a canonical model of intergenerational human capital investment to a geographic context in order to study the role of migration in determining optimal human capital accumulation and income mobility in the United States. The main result is that migration is considerably influential in shaping the high rates of economic mobility observed among children from low-wage areas. Accounting for human capital investment responses to future migration opportunities is important, and these behavioral responses result in skill price shocks having highly varied effects on the earnings of natives based on the location in which they occur. Policies that attempt to decrease human capital flight from low-wage areas via cash transfers are unlikely to be cost-effective.
Immigrants Displace Women
I use geographic variation in immigration over time to establish a previously undocumented stylized fact: foreign immigration reduces the employment rates of native female workers. This effect persists across skill groups, has become less pronounced over time, and is robust to the specification used to estimate it, the definition of the geographical area, and the potential for geographic self-selection among immigrants. It also contrasts sharply with typical findings from studies that focus on native men, as well as my own estimates for men. The pattern of declining female employment effects is consistent with well-documented declines in female labor-supply elasticities, and I find that the female employment effect is driven primarily by married women and those with children, among whom labor supply is known to be relatively elastic. While I find that immigration does not impact the average wages of either low- or high-skilled native women, there is a pronounced negative wage effect for highly skilled native women who are married or have children, with smaller positive effects for other groups. I further argue that the female-male differences in employment and wage effects cannot be explained by either gender differences in the distributions of observed skill among natives or gender differences in the substitutability of immigrant for native labor.
J6 - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers