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Closer to Home: IRS Data Shows Minnesota More Appealing to South Dakota Movers Than South Dakota Is to Minnesota Movers

Yesterday I ran some numbers to demonstrate that, contrary to the flimsy assertions of Governor Kristi Noem, Californians are not flocking to South Dakota for her vision of Red-state Freedom™. I would be remiss if I didn’t apply the same analysis to the migration trends revealed by IRS data for our neighbors in Minnesota.

The IRS publishes migration data for each state based on tax returns. Their data do not include folks who don’t file. While the 2020 Census shows 888K South Dakotans and 5.71M Minnesotans, the IRS can account for only 740K South Dakotans and 4.72M Minnesotans. In the following paragraphs, we will thus refer to percentages of populations showing up on tax returns rather than official Census populations.

According to the IRS, 3,579 Minnesotans who appeared on federal tax returns in 2020 showed up on tax returns from South Dakota in 2021. Welcome, neighbors! Thanks for coming!

2,672 South Dakotans who showed up on 2020 tax returns popped up as Minnesota residents on 2021 tax returns. So South Dakota’s net gain in migrant trade with Minnesota was 907. Yay, us!

But Minnesota had 6.4 times more people than South Dakota in 2020. Out of every 100,000 Minnesotans, 76 chose to move to South Dakota in 2021. Out of 100,000 South Dakotans, 110 chose to move to Minnesota in 2021.

Compare those MN–SD/SD–MN migrant flows to the total migration from each state. The 3,579 Minnesotans who chose South Dakota for their new digs in 2021 were 3.6% of the 98,779 Minnesotans who moved out of Minnesota in 2021. The 2,673 South Dakotans who moved to Minnesota were 11.4% of South Dakota’s total out-migration of 23,376.

So by those numbers, Minnesota is a lot more attractive to South Dakotans than South Dakota is to Minnesotans.

South Dakota is at least more attractive to Minnesotans than foreign countries. Only 362 Minnesota taxpayers and dependents who showed up on 2020 tax returns showed up as residents of foreign countries in 2021. 9.9  times as many Minnesotans chose to move to familiar South Dakota as chose to take their chances in Canada or some other foreign clime. For South Dakotans, that ratio was similar: for every one South Dakotan who moved to a foreign country in 2021, 9.2 moved to Minnesota. We upper Midwesterners are homebodies….

But South Dakota still wasn’t as popular with Minnesota movers and Minnesota was with South Dakota movers. Seven states drew more Minnesotans than South Dakota did: Iowa, Arizona, California, North Dakota (what, because South Dakota isn’t cold enough?) Texas, Florida, and, the top destination, Wisconsin, which drew 3.9 times more Minnesotans than South Dakota did. South Dakota was the least popular of Minnesota’s neighbors.

Meanwhile, Minnesota was the most popular destination for folks leaving South Dakota.

I notice another interesting difference in the percentages of movers in each state who choose to move to a different part of their state rather than moving out of state. 313K Minnesotans got the itch to move in 2021. That’s 6.62% of their 2020 population. 214K of them stayed in Minnesota. That’s 68.4% of Minnesota’s movers figuring they can still make it big (or big enough) within their beloved home state. Thus, only 2.1% of Minnesotans decided to leave their state in 2021.

49,018 South Dakotans moved in 2021. That’s 6.62% of South Dakota’s 2020 population who decided they had to try a new place, the same migrant percentage as Minnesota. 25.6K of South Dakota’s movers stayed within South Dakota. That’s 52.3% of South Dakota movers figuring they can still find what they are looking for in South Dakota. Thus, 3.2% of South Dakotans decided they had to leave in 2021.

The majority of movers in both Minnesota and South Dakota stayed within the state in 2021. But that majority was much larger in Minnesota. With the same percentage of movers, Minnesota did a better job than South Dakota of keeping its restless hearts.

Noem has tried to market South Dakota as a place where Minnesotans could escape liberal politics and enjoy good clean conservative living. But the data don’t show any clear political motivation for Minnesotans’ migration. In 2021, FiveThirtyEight calculated Red/Blue ratings for each state and D.C. based on Presidential, Congressional, gubernatorial, and Legislative election results and their deviations from national averages. When I run those Red/Blue ratings against Minnesota’s out-migration to each state, my Excel spreadsheet finds a measly correlation of –0.046. On a scale of –1 to +1, –0.046 means there’s only a very slight tendency for Minnesota’s émigrés to choose Redder states, but that tendency is likely far outweighed by family, job offers, the desire to stop shoveling snow, and other factors.

The correlation between the numbers of folks moving into South Dakota and the relative Blueness or Redness of the places those new South Dakotans left in 2021 is similarly statistically meaningless. Excel tells me the correlation is –0.01. If the political leanings of the destinations chosen by Minnesota departees matter at all, the political leanings of the homelands of South Dakota newcomers matter less than a quarter as much.

But the main point is not that there are tiny, tiny tendencies; the main point is that there is no clear political tendency in migration worth getting on a soapbox about. Minnesotans are about as likely to move to Democratically run states as they are to Republican dominions. Proportionally, more Minnesotans are content with their home state than South Dakotans are. And proportionally, more South Dakotans would rather be in Minnesota than Minnesotans would rather be in South Dakota.


  1. Ray Tysdal 2023-05-08 07:07

    This story doesn’t go quite far enough. While I will agree that more South Dakotans go the Minnesota than the opposite, the real question might be where they go (the Minnesotans). I live in the Black Hills…we have always had Air Force veterans and former School of Mines students retire in our area. Are Minnesotans moving to Eastern South Dakota or the prairies of Western South Dakota? I think not. The Texans and Californians are moving to the Black Hills, many on our Snow Queen’s invite. A number of these folks are from Minnesota and the common denominator seems to be upper middle-class or wealthy and very right-wing Republican. At least the Minnesotans know how to drive in the snow.

  2. P. Aitch 2023-05-08 08:51

    As I’ve said before, “Every liberal in a Blue state should somehow spread liberalism to a Red state.”

    – There are several reasons why a great number of liberals have moved to Texas.
    – Firstly, Texas is a large and diverse state with a diverse economy, offering job opportunities in a variety of industries such as technology, healthcare, and energy. This has attracted people from all political backgrounds, including liberals.
    – Secondly, Texas has a relatively low cost of living compared to other major metropolitan areas in the US. This affordability has made it a popular choice for young professionals and families looking to settle down and start a life in a big city.
    – Lastly, the demographics of Texas are changing. The state has seen a significant increase in Hispanic and Asian populations in recent years, both of which tend to lean more liberal.
    – Overall, the combination of economic opportunities, affordability, and shifting demographics has made Texas an increasingly attractive place for many liberals to call home.

  3. Donald Pay 2023-05-08 10:55

    We moved from South Dakota to Wisconsin in 2001. The political party of the elected representatives did not factor into our decision. “Freedom” did factor in, but mostly it was about better jobs with better pay and benefits. I think most people move because of job opportunities. We had been discussing the move for a year, but I had a school board position that I loved, so I was reluctant to move until my term ended. Then a few jobs and a housing opportunity opened up right at the time I was moving my daughter to college in Minnesota. Liz’s daughter lived in Madison. It was an easy decision. Bah-bye, South Dakota.

    Wisconsin is a purple state, but Madison is a liberal enclave. I had gone to grad school in Madison. I knew the city. I guess all of this contributed to extra points for the move to Wisconsin.

    I would say “freedom” was about 15% of the reason why we moved from South Dakota. Better jobs and economic conditions accounted for 60%, and family and other considerations accounted for 25%.

  4. Jenny 2023-05-08 11:29

    I wouldn’t dream of ever moving back to SD. It’s even more unattractive now with government corruption getting worse, stagnant last in the nation wages and Trumpies everywhere. Ewww……
    The few times I do come back, I am always surprised with how much higher gas is and then the unfair tax on groceries, the lack of college educated people and just the whiteness of it all.
    MN has been getting SDs educated for decades now and will continue to. When you can get close to a six digit salary right out of college in MN, why would anyone stay in SD?
    The Cities are a welcoming place for LGBTQ2 South Dakotans. World class art, history and science museums, professional sports, a well-known music scene, beautiful bike paths and an efficiently run 24 hour train system (metro blue line), Minneapolis/St Paul has got it going on for a midwestern city.
    P.Aitch, Texas would not be on my list to move to with all its mass shootings and the governor and Ted Cruz doing nothing about it.

  5. P. Aitch 2023-05-08 13:51

    I love MN, Jenny. It’s very similar to CO. I agree fully. I would never move to Texas. In fact, Colorado and Texas have been bitter enemies since the Civil War. Look on a map and you’ll see a very thin piece of Oklahoma that separates Colorful Colorado from Texas. CO couldn’t abide having TX as a border neighbor and that thin strip was the only solution. Somewhere inside that strip of Oklahoma is the line where people start talking with a southern drawl. Cracks me up.
    However, the distaste I carry tor Texas doesn’t stop me from encouraging Californians and anyone else from moving there. Texas has become a purple state with every Texas city fully blue. Drives the rednecks crazy. #grins
    Austin is pretty nice, I hear. Great music scene. Don’t have time left in my life to find out in person, though. In 1979 my late wife and I drove from Littleton, CO to Key West, FL which included enough Texas for a lifetime.

  6. Mark Anderson 2023-05-08 14:30

    Any right wing South Dakoter, would throw themselves in the river like the poet, after spending the day in dinkytown.

  7. grudznick 2023-05-08 16:23

    The Dinkytown has many places one can eat and drink adult beverages. grudznick likes the Dinkytown. Especially Al’s Breakfast, which I recommend if you like egg dishes.

  8. larry kurtz 2023-05-08 17:39

    The Minnesota House just torpedoed the Fairview/Sanford merger.

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2023-05-08 18:36

    Ray, the IRS does give county level data, but it gives the names of counties to which and from which migrants moved, making it tough to sum migrants from specific states. That analysis will take some time….

  10. Mark Anderson 2023-05-08 19:41

    Dinkytown is a good place. It’s kept the U of Minnesota from being a boring athletic U. Luckily Bob Zimmerman didn’t get caught up in it. He did play there and lived there started his folk playing there. He changed his name to Dylan there. Learned about Woody Guthrie and took off for New York after 15 months. The rest as they say….

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2023-05-08 20:06

    Ray! Wait! I misspoke! The IRS county tables have a field for the name of the county from which migrants came, but they also offer a field with a state code to tell us where that county is! I’ll be making some pivot tables….

  12. Arlo Blundt 2023-05-08 20:45

    Dinkeytown is, most often, a pretty mellow scene. In the Spring it gets invaded by High School age Hooligans who square off in groups, based on all kinds of allegiances. It is a plague.

  13. grudznick 2023-05-08 20:52

    Indeed, Mr. Blundt. But back in the day, when you could ride on the Dinkys, there was not the crush of youthful libbies carousing about. You just rode a Dinky to where you wanted to go, and then you drank. With real Men.

  14. grudznick 2023-05-08 20:55

    Mr. H, I am sure some real statisticians, and some mathematicians, and some other kinds of mathematicians, have already done far more that the basic pivot tabling of this data. You used to be a math guy, so you should review the work of the statisticians, mathematicians, and some other kinds of mathematicians that are doing this heavy lifting. And blog about the math.

  15. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2023-05-09 04:54

    Grudz, please send me the articles published by statisticians analyzing this IRS migration data for South Dakota. I’ll be happy to write about those articles to check my work here. Also, please send those articles to the Governor and our legislators so they may identify any noteworthy demographic trends and create evidence-based policies to address them instead of simply bleating false slogans about South Dakota’s attractiveness to workers.

  16. P. Aitch 2023-05-09 06:47

    Yay, Minnesota. Here’s a little update on CO’s paid FAMLI leave law’s progress. Thanks for sharing, Jenny.
    – Both employers and employees will contribute premiums to the program. Premium payments begin in 2023, so employees may start to see a FAMLI premium deduction on their pay stubs beginning January 1, 2023. FAMLI will start providing benefits to employees beginning January 1, 2024. Most eligible employees will receive up to twelve weeks of leave. Those who experience pregnancy or childbirth complications may receive an additional four weeks.

  17. Joe 2023-05-09 10:59

    SD (RC) native here. I’ve spent most of my working life in CA/WA but am considering the Midwest as a retirement option. I love RC and the Hills but SD politics … yikes. Hopefully it improves. Otherwise, maybe Minnetonka or Wjite Bear Lake or Madison.

  18. Richard Schriever 2023-05-10 04:50

    I distinctly recall the feelings/reaction I had when I was moving back to SD from CA 20 years ago, for family reasons. As I entered the state from the south and drove along what were once familiar country highways, observing the landscape and the state of the structures and environs on the farms along the way, it was a sense of sadness and nausea that I felt. This was because it all looked so much more desolate and so neglected to my memories.

  19. P. Aitch 2023-05-10 05:47

    As Samuel Clemens would say, “ Well, now, friend, it seems you’re having a bit of a hankering to head back to South Dakota, the land of our upbringing. But I’m afraid to say, that’s easier imagined than done.
    ‘Ya see, South Dakota may be a fine place in many regards, but it’s not exactly known for its welcoming citizens or abundant job opportunities. To put it plainly, the job market in South Dakota is about as dry as a corncrib in a drought.
    And if that weren’t enough to dissuade ‘ya, there’s the matter of the winters. Oh boy, you ‘member them winters can be colder than a well digger’s donkey, and the snow can pile up higher than a circus elephant’s eye.
    So while I’m sure there’s many a fond memory to be had back in our “great” state, it might be best to keep it as a memory and not try to relive the good old days. Best to forge forward and find new adventures and opportunities, don’t ‘ya think?”

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