Friday, February 27, 2009

Domestic Freedom Index

The thinking is that personal and economic freedom help to drive domestic migration. One of the first things you learn about modeling people flows is that the most powerful variable is economic. Lumping personal freedom into the equation is dubious, but economic liberalism might yield some interesting results:

The authors, William Ruger, of Texas, and Jason Sorens, of New York, are both political science professors affiliated with the university center in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.

“The idea is really that policymakers will take a look at the data we’ve compiled, take a look at the individual policies, and the fact that citizens are leaving states that are less free for states that are more free, and figure out ways to improve their state,” Sorens said during a National Press Club panel Thursday, where the report was discussed. ...

... Sorens said both economic and personal freedom are factors in where people decide to live. The out-migration in “less free” states from 2000 to 2007 was 4 to 5 percentage points greater than other states, he said.

Ruger and Sorens would benefit from a few economic geography classes. I suspect a research design seminar wouldn't hurt, either. Claiming causality instead of correlation almost always raises a red flag. Perhaps the Louisiana newspaper misunderstood Sorens, but the narrative is familiar.

The primary problem is the unit of analysis. State policy is important, but cities are the economic engines. New York State is the least free, but New York City's ability to attract people is beyond question. At least control for the Spiky World paradigm before touting the power of your perscription. Did Ruger and Sorens bother to control for proximity? I doubt it.

No comments: