Policy Research Fellow

Curtis Shelton currently serves as a policy research fellow for OCPA with a focus on fiscal policy. Curtis graduated Oklahoma State University in 2016 with a Bachelors of Arts in Finance. Previously, he served as a summer intern at OCPA and spent time as a staff accountant for Sutherland Global Services.

Policy Research Fellow

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Note: This is part of a series about how states attract income–really people who earn income–from other states. Data are from How Money Walks, a project that tracks income migration at the state and county levels. Using IRS data, it shows how states have gained or lost wealth between 1992 and 2016. These data provide evidence about the effects of tax policy on where people choose to live.

Nevada has benefited from $24.3 billion of annual adjusted gross income moving into the state from 1992 to 2016. Like Texas and Washington state, Nevada has gained the most wealth from California, the state with the highest income tax rate in the country, with $14.06 billion moving from California to Nevada.

In terms of competitiveness based on policy variables, Nevada doesn’t rank as well as Florida, but does have higher rankings than both Texas and Washington. According to the Tax Foundation’s 2019 State Business Tax Climate Index, which compares states’ tax structures, Nevada ranked 9th. Nevada nears the top ten (13th) in Rich States, Poor States, which ranks each state on its economic competitiveness.

Even though it has no income tax and low property taxes, Nevada’s tax burden is not much lower than Oklahoma’s. This is because Nevada has one of the highest sales tax burdens in the country. These similar tax burdens, however, have not resulted in similar growth patterns. While Nevada saw tremendous growth over the last two decades, Oklahoma has experienced a small outflow of wealth.

CategoryNevadaOklahoma
Net Wealth Migration (1992-2016)Gain of $24.30 billionLoss of $1.22 billion
Income Tax Rate0%5%
State Business Tax Climate Index Ranking9th26th
Rich States, Poor States Ranking13th16th
State and Local Tax Per Capita$3,297$3,060
Tax Burden as a Percentage of Income8.24%8.73%

The growth of the baseball scene in Las Vegas provides a microcosm for the growth seen by Nevada. In the mid-1990s, there wasn’t much competition in the youth leagues. Over the next two decades, as the city’s population exploded by nearly 160 percent, so too did the baseball culture. A number of high-quality coaches, drawn by the state’s lack of an income tax, and the growing number of high schools resulted in much more competition among youth players. With only a handful of players making it to the big leagues since the 1980s, the Las Vegas area has produced 14 major league players in the last four years.

This sort of transformation in the baseball landscape is an example of the kind of change an entire state can see. Just as every hitter looks for an advantage over the pitcher, states are looking for advantages over each other. While having no income tax doesn’t guarantee success, it’s like starting with a 2-0 count. Who wouldn’t want that?

Policy Research Fellow

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