Here’s what (and who) outmigration reports miss about N.J.

NJPP’s McKoy: We need to have more appreciation for our immigrant neighbors

You usually count on the two things from Brandon McKoy, the president of New Jersey Policy Perspective:

  • Being liberal or progressive in his views;
  • Stating those views with facts and figures — not fury.

So, when he called Tuesday to voice his opinion about ROI-NJ even running the annual United Van Lines moving study — one that again showed New Jersey is the top outmigration state in the country — we were surprised a bit by his tone.

“It’s a joke of a study that everybody laughs at every year,” he said. “We need to stop giving it attention.”

It’s a good line. And it goes to what we were trying to say in our tongue-in-cheek column on the issue: The study causes strong reactions.

Because New Jersey annually leads the study — one in which United Van Lines compares the number of jobs it has leaving a state compared with entering it — the report brings out those reactions in many who hope to use it to illustrate a point on the state’s appeal or policies.

But, behind McKoy’s good line is an unescapable truth. Perhaps an uncomfortable one, too. Moves involving United Van Lines more often than not are made by those who have a little more money. And, perhaps, a little less diversity.

Simply put, immigrants entering the state don’t often use national moving companies. So says McKoy.

“Traditionally, we have stemmed outmigration by enjoying and attracting a lot of international immigrants,” he said. “That’s obviously taken a major hit under the (President Donald) Trump administration because of its immigration policies. Hopefully, under this new administration, we’ll get back to where we were.”

Immigrants, of course, are the backbone of the population in New Jersey and the region. Look no further than Ellis Island for proof of that. Or look at the statistics from the American Immigration Council.

There are more than 2 million immigrants in the state, approximately 23% of the population. And one in six residents is a native-born U.S. citizen with at least one immigrant parent. According to the council, immigrants account for over two-fifths of all health care support workers, nearly half of all workers in computer and math sciences and half of all production employees.

They more than backfill any departures. And, here’s the thing, McKoy said, that’s always been the case. It’s just not a study that’s published annually.

“You want to know, really, what the issue is: People in Jersey will talk about outmigration being an issue in New Jersey as though it’s something new — it’s not,” he said. “We’ve been an outmigration state going back 50-plus years.

“This is an issue that is shared amongst our fellow Northeast neighbors. It is not unique to New Jersey alone.”

(Editor’s note: A few readers have taken exception to this statement, saying New Jersey has not been an outmigration state for 50-plus years. They cite this story in the New York Times from 1987 — or 34 years ago — to support this view.)

He’s right. While New Jersey had the highest exodus according to United Van Lines (70% of moves were outgoing), New York was tied for second (67%) and Connecticut was fourth (63%).

Some would only say that feeds the narrative that the Northeast is losing its desirability. McKoy says it’s the opposite — that the area is not in danger of becoming desolate, housing prices continue to rise (a house just sold in Hoboken for $5 million) and plenty of people are eager to get in on the chance to be a part of it all.

“I think everyone should keep in mind that, A) This is not a uniquely New Jersey problem specifically, so, stop acting like it is,” he said. “And, B) Have a little bit more appreciation for our immigrant neighbors.”