There has been a considerable number of people leaving California in recent years. It is worth discussing the specific characteristics of the people leaving the state of California and those who are moving to the state. The people who are deciding to leave the state are either middle-income or lower-income residents of California. This is not a new trend for the state of California. However, the departure of middle-income residents from California has only increased in the last five years.
As with any trend involving large amounts of people leaving a state, there are multiple reasons for this. One important reason is that there is a lack of affordability for these residents in California. Most people leaving California moved from high-cost-of-living cities. The fact that cities like Bakersfield, Fresno, and Sacramento have added to their population— while other major cities saw huge population losses— supports the cause that the affordability of housing is a major reason for these departures. While some relocated to more affordable areas of the state, most moved to another state.
Data shows that 275,000 people left California in 2021, up from 180,000 in 2020. However, the trend of California residents leaving the state to move to other states is not a new thing. People leaving California happened in significant numbers from 2010-2020, with approximately 6.1 million people departing the state and heading to other states in the US. When you compare the number of people that moved to California in 2020 to the number of people that left it in 2020, you see that 135,000 more people left it than entered it.
The trend of less-educated, lower-income people leaving California and higher-income people with at least a bachelor's degree or more moving into the state has continued since 2010. From 2015-2019, a total of 204,900 lower-income adults and 465,500 adults without Bachelor’s degrees moved out of California, according to data from the Public Policy Institute of California. That continued the trend from 2010-2014 when 173,400 lower-income adults and 311,900 with a Bachelor’s degree moved out of the state.
When it comes to middle-income adults leaving California, the numbers are a bit different, but the trend remains the same. From 2010-2014, 79,600 middle-income adults moved out of California and this trend accelerated from 2015-2019, with 210,000 middle-income adults moving out of the state during that time period.
It is also worth noting that some of the people choosing to leave California were influenced to do so as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many states saw people leaving, citing that they wanted to move closer to family and other support systems. Others were unhappy with the restrictions that California imposed during the pandemic, and chose to leave the state as a result. Although this wasn’t the only reason for the departure of many in the state, it cannot be overlooked as one factor that added to the issue.
Seeing these high numbers of people leaving the state, one may wonder where they are moving to. The number one destination for those leaving California is Texas. Over twelve percent—82,235 people— of those leaving California moved to Texas in 2020.
The second most popular destination is Arizona. About 59,713 people (equalling about nine percent of all those leaving the state) moved to Arizona from California in 2020. Other states that were popular new homes for former Californians include Nevada (47,332 people), Washington (46,791 people), and Oregon (37,927 people).
It makes sense that about 40% of those leaving California choose one of these five states. They are all located geographically close to California and offer some financial advantages over the state as well.