Rights Regimes and Interstate Migration Decisions



In their “laboratories of democracy,” state legislators, governors, and judges use their control over policy to experiment with citizens’ fundamental rights. Advocates argue that federalism preserves liberty by creating an easy exit option for citizens: faced with restrictive rights regimes, people can move to a state with more generous rights protections. There are reasons to doubt this account: groups most sensitive to rights restrictions be unble to move, people prioritize amenities like weather and economic circumstances, and people may be more sensitive to economic policy than rights policies. We use a conjoint experiment asking people to evaluate hypothetical job opportunities. We find that, restricting rights is generally repellant to would-be interstate migrants. This is especially so for Democrats and for those actively looking for jobs. Economic policies cannot make up for these restrictions.



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