The group Tennessee Tax Revolt
has a vacuous news release out today declaring that a major property tax increase will "destroy the future of Davidson County" by perpetuating a pattern of near-flat population growth and driving more residents out of the county.
 It is statistically inept and intellectually lazy to assert a direct link between property tax hikes and out-of-county migration without looking at the pattern year-to-year comparing times with tax rate adjustments and times without them.
 It is sociologically inept and intellecually lazy to talk of the effects of a city's tax rate on population flows without analyzing the regional economy (what economists sometimes call "agglomeration economies") of the metropolitan area. Although it is true that tax rates may drive some decisions about where to live in a metro area, it is provincial to ignore how a city's fiscal policy affects the region as a whole. To illustrate, here is an excerpt from a paper
published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia describing this phenomenon in that city:
Large cities often have significant cost advantages, known as agglomeration economies, in producing and providing goods and services. These agglomeration economies arise when firms, retail stores, or cultural activities are concentrated in common and usually small geographic areas within the city. High tax rates and low quality public services, however, may drive firms and middle and upper income households from the city. As firms and families exit, city agglomeration economies are lost. The loss of agglomeration economies leads to higher prices for city-produced goods and services. Population and income grow more slowly or decline, and house values in the city and suburbs fall. In the end, the region as a whole loses, not just the central city.
As one example of a creative alternative, other metro areas have looked at innovative forms of regional tax sharing as a way to address problems of regional economic integration that threaten to undermine the social, economic, and cultural fabric of the urban core (here's
 It is narrow-minded to discuss migration patterns in a metropolitan area without considering the broader effects of suburban sprawl on the overall economic and social health of the region. Although it has become fashionable to caricature sprawl-angst as a fetish of the left (here's a very good Sierra Club article
on the subject), others have argued that concern about sprawl is actually a conservative issue
Exploring the connections between Nashville's tax policy and Middle Tennessee's patterns of growth and population migration is unquestionably a worthwhile enterprise as Mayor Bill Purcell ponders his 2006 budget. It's a shame that groups like Tennessee Tax Revolt prefer cosmetic sloganeering to the hard work involved in making serious arguments.