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Georgia is one of the most problematic states in the US, and that’s a good thing

By John A. Tures, Professor of Political Science, LaGrange College

When I moved to Georgia, I started hearing the phrase “stick to your ribs,” and with the great BBQ spots established, as well as the ones moving in, there will be no shortage of good food in Cobb County.

But Georgia is about to get a new tacky designation. The state once again landed in the top five because it is one of the stickiest in America, meaning people who were born in Georgia or come to the Peach State tend to “stick around.”

“Migration from state to state has been on the rise for decades, but an interesting measure is how ‘sticky’ a state is – a term used to calculate how many people born in the state continue to live there,” writes Josh Marcus The independentin his article “The Top Five US States People Never Want to Leave – and the States They Always Leave.”

Marcus notes that Texas tops the list, with more than 82 percent of residents choosing to stay in the Lone Star State. Georgia comes in at 74.2 percent, just one spot behind North Carolina (75.5 percent). Despite the flood of articles I get about how terrible California is, and how everyone is moving away, the evidence from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and the US Census Bureau shows that California is the fourth most problematic state, at 73 percent.

States like Wyoming, North Dakota, Alaska and South Dakota often cite their low populations and inhospitable climate for their rankings at the bottom (including Rhode Island), but on the other hand, Utah shares some of these factors and still ranks near the top five for people who stay nearby.

Georgia also did quite well last year, according to US News and World Report’s analysis of the same data. Florida was only one percentage point behind Georgia at the time, so we’ll have to see what happened to the Sunshine State. In that 2023 survey, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee fared well, but Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi lagged further behind. The map showed the Pacific Northwest and the Midwest doing well in stickiness, with other Prairie states and New England states further behind.

So maybe it’s not just the climate, because the south can become quite hot and inhospitable in the summer. Kim Nichols Dauner and Neil A. Wilmot, who published in Public Health Front in 2022found that social capital could play a key role in keeping local residents happy.

In their article “Do states with greater social capital before the pandemic provide mental health protection during the COVID-19 pandemic? A cross-sectional view, write Dauner and Wilmot. “Social capital is a well-known health determinant with both relational and geographical aspects. It can help alleviate side effects and has been shown to influence behavior and responses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mental health has declined during the COVID-19 pandemic, and social capital can serve as a buffer to this decline.” Additionally, the authors found that “generalized social trust and state mask mandates were significantly associated with lower levels of depression and anxiety.”

Maintaining better social ties, better community engagement, and stronger local organizations can potentially build a sense of community, allowing people in places like Cobb County to “stick around” long after the worst aspects of COVID-19 have subsided somewhat. It could explain why some in Georgia and other states want to live near the top of that pesky measure.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at New York University LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. His views are his own. He can be reached at [email protected]. His “X” account is JohnTures2.

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