A Culture War is Causing the Florida Mass Exodus

By: Lauren | Last updated: Apr 29, 2024

Over the past few years, the state of Florida has seen a significant increase in residents as Americans abandoned their home states in the hope of a better, sunnier, and more affordable life in the Sunshine State.

However, it’s now become clear that Florida isn’t the land of perpetual vacation, as people expected. The intense political division, increasing taxes and insurance costs, and the ongoing culture war led many new Florida residents to move out almost as soon as they’d unpacked their bags.

More Than 700,00 Americans Moved to Florida in 2022

According to the Census Bureau, some 700,000 Americans moved to Florida in 2022, making it the second fastest-growing state in the country.

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A woman signs for her boxes from a mover

Source: Freepik

But that very same year, about 500,000 residents of the Sunshine State left the beaches behind. While each person certainly had their own reasons for leaving, the majority of them fell into one of the following four categories: Increase in property taxes, soaring insurance costs, extreme weather and frustrating traffic, and the ever-intensifying culture war.

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Many People Moved to Florida to Avoid Income Tax

Florida is one of only nine states in the US that doesn’t charge any kind of income tax. So hundreds of thousands of people assumed that moving to Florida would save them a fortune on their taxes every year.

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Tax forms spread out on a table with a pen, glasses, calculator, and a post-it note that reads “Tax Time”

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Unfortunately, that’s not exactly what happened. The median property tax in Florida increased from $2,226 in 2019 to $3,003 in 2023, and experts believe that number will continue to increase by 6% every year for the foreseeable future.

Home Insurance Costs Have Skyrocketed

The property tax increases relate directly to the jump in housing costs, as well as the country’s frustrating inflation rate, which technically are occurring in all 50 states, not just Florida.

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A man holds up a form that reads “Insurance” with a pen pointing to the signature line

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However, new Florida residents have noted that their home insurance costs are astronomical compared to what they paid in other states, and that certainly has to do with their location.

Homeowners Insurance Rose 42% in 2023

The average rate for homeowners insurance rose by 42% in 2023, with a new statewide average of $6,000 a year.

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A woman looks excited as she holds up the keys to her new house

Source: Freepik

So now, Florida homes are just as expensive in Florida as in other states, the property taxes are equal or, in some cases, even higher, and the homeowner’s insurance costs are through the roof. For many, that would be enough to leave the state behind.

Living in Florida Is Not a Permanent Vacation

When many people think of the Sunshine State, they envision the gorgeous beaches of the Florida Keys, visits to Disney World with the family, or taking a stroll through the streets of exciting metropolises like Miami or Tampa

The sun hits a lone palm tree against a bright blue sky

Source: Freepi

However, many Americans who moved to Florida over the past few years reported that was not what they found. Instead, they were worried about hurricanes wrecking their homes and felt stuck in their suburbs due to the horrific traffic throughout the state.

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There Were 7 Hurricanes in 2023

The 2023 Atlantic Hurricane Season was especially traumatizing for Florida residents. There were 21 storms and seven hurricanes, three of which were considered major, and one, Hurricane Idalia, made quite a mess.

A hurricane hits the coast of Florida

Source: Freepik

Hurricane Idalia hit Keaton Beach, Florida, on August 30, 2023, causing extreme flooding and destroying almost 6,000 homes.

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Living in Florida Has Several Downfalls

New residents noted that living in Florida just wasn’t what they thought it would be. From bumper-to-bumper traffic to extreme weather, the Sunshine State disappointed many hopeful Americans.

View of dozens of cars stuck in traffic

Source: Freepik

Jodi Cummings, who moved from Connecticut to Florida in 2021, told the press, “It wasn’t the utopia on any level that I thought it would be. I thought Florida would be an easier lifestyle, I thought the pace would be a little bit quieter, I thought it would be warmer. I didn’t expect it to be literally 100 degrees at night. [It’s] not anything like I thought it would be.

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The Culture War: Blue vs. Red

In addition to these mounting issues, for many Americans, the biggest complaint about living in Florida is the ongoing culture war between Red and Blue residents.

Illustration of the Democratic donkey and Republican elephant going head-to-head

Source: iStock

As Barb Carter, who moved from Kansas to Florida to be closer to her grandchildren, explained, “You cannot engage in a conversation there without politics coming up; it is just crazy. We’re retired. We’re supposed to be in our fun time of life. I learned quickly [to] just keep your mouth shut because I saw people in my own community break up their friendships over it. I don’t like losing friends, and especially over politics.”

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Florida’s Controversial Politics

Of course, in one way or another, politics is affecting every state in the country, especially with the presidential election right around the corner. However, Florida’s politics are certainly more diversive than most.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis captured mid-speech, dressed in a blue suit with a red tie, with the Florida state flag partially visible in the background

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Governor of the Sunshine State, Republican Ron DeSantis, has made many decisions over the past few years which have created an extreme divide among residents. From passing the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” to removing books about race in schools, fighting publically with Disney, and changing abortion laws, DeSantis has single-handedly created an internal culture war throughout the state.

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What’s Happening in Florida Should Scare Americans

While some Florida residents admire the governor and his extreme right-wing policies, many others, even within the Republican party, are less than impressed with his aggressive decisions.

Democratic US Representative Maxwell Frost from Florida during an interview with Good Morning America

Source: @GoodMorningAmerica/YouTube

Democratic US Representative Maxwell Frost from Florida told the press, “What’s been happening … in Florida should scare every single person across the entire country… [it] should frighten anyone who values democracy, voting rights, civil rights, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness.”

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Florida Really Isn’t the Promised Land

While it’s too soon to say what’s next for the state of Florida, the sad truth is that the state simply cannot deliver the peaceful, affordable, and beautiful life that its postcards promote.

View of downtown Miami, Florida, including the harbor

Source: Freepik

If things don’t change, Florida will likely see far more residents packing their bags in 2024, including many of those who just arrived and found themselves wildly disappointed.

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Comparing Florida with Other States

While Florida faces unique challenges, comparing it to other migration hotspots like Texas reveals differences and similarities. Texas, for instance, also has no state income tax but generally higher property taxes and insurance rates (via Investopedia).

The state flag of Texas waving in the wind against a clear blue sky

Source: Pete Alexopoulos/Unsplash

This makes Texas potentially a better option for retirees and working individuals, as long as they aren’t too reliant on government services.

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Florida's Demographic Transformation

Florida’s population shifts are altering its demographic landscape significantly. Young professionals and retirees from diverse backgrounds are moving in, changing the state’s age and cultural makeup (via the Washington Post).

An elderly couple sitting on a bench in front of the ocean and a beach.

Source: James Hose Jr/Unsplash

These shifts influence local economies, potentially increasing demand for services tailored to these varied groups, yet also straining existing infrastructure.

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Mental Health Strains in the Sunshine State

The stress from frequent hurricanes, political discord, and financial worries contribute to mental health challenges for many Florida residents.

A man looks extremely stressed while he holds his head in his hands

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This environment can affect social well-being, with community tensions high and personal stress levels potentially increasing.

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Education Amidst Political Heat

Florida’s educational policies under current political leadership have sparked plenty of controversy, affecting school environments and student performance.

Rear view of diverse students sitting on black mesh office chairs in a classroom setting. They are focused on a speaker at the front, who is out of focus

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Policies influencing book bans and curriculum changes are causing concern among parents about the educational quality and freedom, making Florida less attractive for families prioritizing diverse and comprehensive education.

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Business Climate Amidst Turbulence

Despite political divides, Florida remains a hub for new businesses due to its strategic location and tax advantages (via Business News Daily). However, the ongoing cultural wars and economic policies are making investors think twice.

Two businessmen shake hands over a wooden table

Source: Freepik

A stable and welcoming political environment may be necessary to maintain its reputation as a business-friendly state.

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Analyzing the Real Estate Market

Florida’s real estate market is experiencing volatility with soaring insurance costs and property taxes impacting homeownership. The dream of affordable living is fading, making potential buyers cautious (via BNN Bloomberg).

A row of houses lined up on each side of the street in Florida.

Source: Ameer Basheer/Unsplash

The market might face a downturn if these financial pressures continue without relief, affecting overall housing affordability.

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Environmental Challenges Facing Florida

Environmental sustainability is a growing concern in Florida, with issues like rising sea levels and hurricane impacts at the forefront.

Protest for climate change with several people with cardboard signs and a megaphone

Source: Freepik

These challenges affect not just the natural landscape but also the viability of living in coastal areas, prompting a need for significant environmental policies and focus on addressing climate change.

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Infrastructure and Population Dynamics

As Florida’s population grows, its infrastructure is under pressure. Transportation, utilities, and healthcare systems are particularly strained, affecting residents’ quality of life.

An aerial shot of a key in florida with multiple houses, white sandy beach, and blue water

Source: Zachary Vessels/Pexels

Effective planning and investment in infrastructure are crucial to accommodate the growing population and prevent systemic breakdowns (via the Florida Chamber of Commerce).

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Tourist vs. Resident Experiences

Tourists see the sunny beaches and vibrant cities of Florida, but residents experience a different reality. Beyond the tourist spots, daily life includes dealing with extreme weather, high living costs, and political tensions.

Archway entrance to Walt Disney World in Florida

Source: iStock

This discrepancy can lead to disillusionment among new residents who (perhaps naively) expected a permanent vacation.

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Cultural and Recreational Opportunities

Florida offers rich cultural and recreational activities that are key attractions for residents. However, the quality and accessibility of these amenities can vary greatly depending on economic and political factors.

People enjoying the beach during Spring Break in Florida during the 1960s

Source: Flickr

Enhancing these aspects could improve living conditions and help balance the state’s challenging aspects.

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Retiree Life in Florida

Florida remains a popular retirement destination, but the realities can be challenging for the elderly. Issues like high healthcare costs, property taxes, and hurricane threats make it less ideal.

An elderly couple walking outside together on a sidewalk near a beach.

Source: Sam Williams/Unsplash

Addressing these concerns could make Florida a more hospitable state for retirees seeking a tranquil post-retirement life.

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Florida's Future

The future of Florida hinges on addressing its current challenges. With potential policy adjustments and strategic planning, the state could stabilize and continue to attract new residents.

Tall buildings lit up in Tampa, Florida in the night.

Source: Kody Cheyne/Unsplash

However, if current trends continue, Florida might see an increasing number of residents choosing to leave in search of better living conditions elsewhere.

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