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Wealth on the move

Statewide and locally, outmigration has been a big concern for a number of years. The Empire Center for Public Policy published a report in 2009 that warned “the Empire State is being drained of an invaluable resource—people.”

The talent and energy of individuals is not all that’s lost when outmigration occurs. The movement of wealth also matters a great deal.

While it’s not an absolute measure, county-level migration data from the Internal Revenue Service offers a reasonable yardstick for wealth gained or lost. The latest numbers, released a month ago, contain adjusted gross income figures for 2011 and 2012.

At a glance, the AGI figures paint a picture that will surprise no one who has been paying attention. But a closer look reveals details that suggest it would be useful not to oversimplify this issue.

Taken together, Monroe and four adjacent counties—Ontario, Wayne, Livingston and Genesee—had a total net AGI outmigration of nearly $170 million from 2011 to 2012, according to calculations based on IRS figures for counties with at least 1,000 new tax returns compiled in a Governing.com database. The lion’s share of the loss occurred in Monroe County: $151 million.

But outmigration did not occur throughout the region. The number of filers in Ontario County grew, and the net AGI figure was a positive number: $24 million.

Most of the wealth came from neighboring counties: Monroe, Wayne, Seneca, Yates and Livingston. That’s also where most of the wealth leaving the county went.

While Monroe County lost more wealth than it gained, its migration patterns otherwise were similar. The top inflow and outflow sources were Ontario, Wayne, Livingston and Erie counties, in that order.

The top out-of-state destinations for wealth leaving Monroe County were Palm Beach and Broward counties in Florida, Boston, Charlotte and Los Angeles.

The IRS data are helpful to getting a clearer understanding of migration regionally. As for a strategy to attract—and keep—more people here, Ontario County might offer some clues.

8/28/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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