The millions of elderly Americans moving to new retirement homes don't arrive empty-handed, say researchers who calculate that states like Florida and Arizona wind up billions of dollars to the good.
On the other hand, the departure of retirees is taking away billions from such states as New York and Illinois.The movement of elderly Americans to the Sun Belt has been widely reported in recent years, and residents of many retirement towns have expressed a fear that the social services needed by older residents will drain local resources.
"They're wrong," conclude Charles F. Longino Jr. of the University of Miami and William H. Crown of Brandeis University. "For most of the communities that receive them, retired migrants are pure gold."
Retirement migration increases local spending and broadens the tax base of communities receiving the elderly, Longino and Crown report in the October edition of American Demographics magazine.
"I was surprised that it was so high," Longino said in a telephone interview from his Coral Gables office. By stimulating the economies of the areas where they move, the elderly are paying their way as far as needed services are concerned, he added.
"When rural counties float on a cushion of Social Security, pensions, annuities and asset income, the economy improves - particularly the service sector," Longino and Crown reported.
To support their findings, Longino and Crown analyzed the 1980 Census, comparing the incomes of people age 60 and over who moved between 1975 and 1980. They projected figures for 1990, assuming a similar amount of migration would have taken place between 1985 and 1990, updating with current income levels.
Florida, the nation's leading retirement state, is the big winner, they calculate, with a net gain of $5 billion from retirees moving there between 1985 and 1990. Utah's gain is $28 million.
A distant second, Arizona can expect a net gain of just over $1 billion, according to the researchers. Ten states are expected to see net gains of $100 million or more: Texas, North Carolina, Arkansas, Oregon, South Carolina, Nevada, Georgia, Washington, New Mexico and California.