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Texas leads the nation in native born residents who won’t move away

Researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas say that’s a key driver of Texas’ economic growth.

Texans love just about everything about their state, except perhaps this summer’s extended run of rain-free, 100-degree-plus days.

But how deep does that love go?

Well, people born in Texas are the least likely in the nation to move out, according to new research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.


Maybe it’s the Lone Star State’s legendary big sky and its come-and-take-it culture. Or it could be the plentiful Tex-Mex and live music. Or maybe it’s the cultural diversity of its big cities and the character and charm of its small towns.

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No matter the reason, the state’s “stickiness” — as the Fed describes it — is a key driver of its economic growth.


“The share of people born in a state and who stay there can provide an important measure of its attractiveness to workers,” according to a report by Dallas Fed research analyst Ana Pranger, senior economist Pia Orrenius and University of North Florida economics professor Madeline Zavodny.

“The stickiness of native residents is also key to maintaining a stable (or growing) population and workforce, which is vital to economic growth,” the researchers wrote.

They found that 82% of people born in Texas remained in the state as of 2021. The researchers used data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.


That far outpaces the next closest states at retaining their native-born. Other sticky states include:

  • North Carolina (75.5%)
  • Georgia (74.2%)
  • California (73%)
  • Utah (72.9%)

What makes people stay?

Several factors went into making states stickier than others, the researchers wrote.

That includes more varied job opportunities, above-average job growth, tax policies and housing costs and the number of major cities in a state. Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston are the nation’s fourth and fifth most populated metro areas. Austin and San Antonio also rank among the 30 largest.

“The five stickiest states each recorded above-average job growth between 2010 and 2019, meaning there was less pressure for residents to leave to find work,” the researchers said. “States with multiple cities are at an advantage for stickiness because they can provide native residents with a wider variety of in-state job opportunities and relatively higher wages compared with smaller or less-populous states with fewer urban areas.”

Texas has posted job growth for 29 consecutive months, including 26,000 new nonfarm positions in July. In 2022, Texas added 650,100 jobs — more than any state and more than double its historical average. Its 5% job growth rate led all states and easily surpassed the 3% growth for the nation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Companies often cite the state’s deep labor pool — now nearly 14 million strong — as a reason for relocating to Texas.

The researchers also found that four of the five stickiest states have below-average state and local tax burdens. Texas is one of nine states with no state income tax.

“Residents born in low-tax states may be hesitant to move to high-tax states, as the additional obligation will reduce take-home pay and may lower their standard of living,” they wrote.


Where are people leaving?

Wyoming is the least-sticky state, with only 45% of natives remaining there. North Dakota and Alaska aren’t far behind at 48.6% and 48.7%, respectively. Rhode Island and South Dakota round out the bottom five with stickiness scores of 55.2% and 54.2%.

The least-sticky states also tend to see the highest levels of out-migration, which tracks everyone moving from one state to another. Texas had the lowest out-migration rate in 2021, followed by Maine and Michigan. Wyoming, Alaska and Hawaii experienced the highest out-migration.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that the COVID-19 pandemic had little effect on whether people stayed or left their home states.


“No state’s stickiness score changed by more than 3 percentage points between 2017 and 2021,” they wrote. “Even as more people moved during the pandemic, states overall remained just as sticky (or not) as they were before.”