California exodus

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The California exodus is the ongoing mass emigration of residents and businesses from California to other U.S. states or countries.[1][2] The term was used as early as 2016[3] and saw a resurgence during the COVID-19 pandemic.[4][5][6] Common reasons for residents leaving California include high cost of living, crime, politics and traffic,[7] as well as comparatively high tax levels and a complex regulatory environment for businesses.[8] Texas is the leading destination of California's former residents,[7] followed by Arizona.[9]


Net domestic migration, California[10]
Year In-migrants Out-migrants Net
2010 444,749 573,988 –129,239
2011 468,428 562,343 –93,915
2012 493,641 566,986 –73,345
2013 485,477 581,679 –96,202
2014 513,968 593,308 –79,340
2015 514,477 643,710 –129,233
2016 514,758 657,690 –142,932
2017 523,131 661,026 –137,895
2018 501,023 691,145 –190,122
2019 480,204 653,551 –173,347
2021 433,402 841,065 –407,663
2022 475,803 817,669 –341,866

California joined the United States after the Mexican–American War. Like much of the land ceded from Mexico in the war, California had only a small non-Native population.[11] However, the California Gold Rush led to a population boom, during which California gained statehood in 1850. Between the 1850 and 1860 censuses, its population more than quadrupled. It saw a second period of growth after World War II thanks to the aerospace and defense industries, and a third during the 1980s and early 1990s because of the Silicon Valley tech industry. Population growth slowed in the mid-1990s as the federal government cut aerospace spending after the end of the Cold War, and again after the Great Recession.

The state has had a net loss of domestic migrants every year since about 1989.[12][10] According to Census Bureau estimates, 6.2 million people left the state in the 2010s decade, while 4.9 million moved in: a net loss of 1.3 million residents.[13]

The change is visible in state-to-state migration flows. In 1955–1960, the ten largest state-to-state migration flows involving California all had the state as a recipient of people. While in 1995–2000, nine of the ten largest flows involving the state had California as a net loser, with only New York sending more people to California than it received in return.[14]

According to the California Department of Finance, the state had 135,600 more people move out than moved in from July 2019 to July 2020, marking the third straight year of net migration losses.[15] After peaking just shy of 40 million Californians,[16] by 2020 into 2022 onward this slowing had crossed the zero population growth mark into outright negative population growth for the first time in over a century.[17]

In July 2021, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, the University of California, Los Angeles, Cornell University, and Stanford University found "no evidence of an abnormal increase in residents planning to move out of the state."[18] This research was based on forward projections from a survey, asking participants "Have you given any consideration recently to moving out of California?" and was not based on realized net domestic migration data.[19]

However, the exodus worsened in 2021,[20] when more than 360,000 people moved out of California, especially going to states like Texas, Arizona, Washington, Idaho, and Utah. Some are also moving to Mexico to avoid the 2021–2023 inflation surge, as Mexico's cost of living is lower.[21] Between April 2020 and July 2022, the state's population dropped by more than 500,000 people.[22]

In July 2023, California Department of Finance reviewed its population forecast for 2060 and concluded that the state's population would stay constant at about 40 million people, instead of reaching 53 million as estimated in 2013.[23][24] In October 2023, the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research found that California was "hemorrhaging residents to neighboring states like Texas, Arizona, and Nevada" at "higher levels than ever before", across all income levels, and especially among college graduates.[20][25]


For individuals[edit]

The primary cause of the exodus is the high cost of living (and especially the cost of housing), followed by issues such as crime, politics, pollution, and traffic.[7][20][22] Kenneth P. Miller said in 2022 that taxes, as well as rising costs on housing, food, and other needs and wants, are the biggest reason for Californians leaving the state.[26] The rise of remote work also made it easier for people to leave California.[27]

Housing and infrastructure[edit]

California has repeatedly been ranked as one of the country’s most expensive states to live in. The median asking price for a house was $797,470 in California in 2022, which only a quarter of households in the state can afford.[21]

Economists have cited restrictive zoning policies and lack of investment in transportation infrastructure that has resulted in sprawl, constrained housing supply, high housing prices, and severe congestion. They also cited over-reliance on sales tax, fees, and disproportionate property taxes on new residents caused by 1978 California Proposition 13.[28]

In a December 2020 column for the Los Angeles Times, journalist Michael Hiltzik argued that California's slowing population growth was a cause for concern but not a full-blown crisis. Hiltzik quoted demographer Hank Johnson from the Public Policy Institute of California as saying that recent data "is just an incremental change from what we've been seeing over a couple of decades." According to Johnson, California's population trends don't compare to the "hollowing-out" of Rust Belt cities such as Cleveland, Detroit, and St. Louis, which have lost more than half their populations in the last 50 years. Hiltzik instead says that a lack of affordable housing is California's main problem, as it has pushed young people out of the state, and that concerns about over-regulation are being exaggerated.[12]

Environmental policies and mandates[edit]

According to the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, the climate change policy of California could increase exodus to more lenient states like Arizona and Texas.[20]

For businesses[edit]

Several businesses, particularly Silicon Valley companies, have moved their headquarters out of California in recent years. Some of the largest businesses that have announced moving their headquarters include Charles Schwab, Oracle, Palantir, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.[29] Though they have moved to a variety of other states, Texas has received many of the new headquarters, including those of Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Oracle. Businessman Elon Musk moved from California to Texas in late 2020, though his company SpaceX remained in California.[30] Frustrated by California's Covid-19 lockdown policies, Tesla relocated its headquarters to Austin, Texas in 2020 next to the company's gigafactory.[31] However, in 2023 it announced opening its engineering headquarters back up in Palo Alto.[32] Jeremy Boreing and Ben Shapiro, in September 2020, moved their company The Daily Wire to Nashville. They cited California’s drug and crime problem and California’s left-wing politics as their primary reasons for departure.


The exodus has cost California one seat in the House of Representatives after the 2020 U.S. Census

In the 2020 redistricting cycle based on the 2020 census, California lost a seat in the House of Representatives for the first time in its history, going from 53 to 52 seats.[33][34]

By location[edit]

San Francisco[edit]

San Francisco is suffering from the opioid crisis, with the 2nd highest rate of drug deaths in the country.[35] Like many other large cities in California, San Francisco also has a large homeless population.[36] Following the Covid pandemic, many tech workers have embraced remote work, causing about a third of the commercial real estate in downtown San Francisco to be empty.[37] San Francisco has been described as having entered a "doom loop" similar to Detroit, with the downtown portion of the city having only 32% of the cell phone activity as pre-pandemic levels.[38] A doom loop occurs when one harmful factor causes another harmful factor, exacerbating the original problem and pushing people out of the city. Others argue that doom loop claims are exaggerated and that the crisis is isolated to downtown San Francisco rather than city wide and that San Francisco has always been a "boom and bust" city.[39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Golis: True or false? People are leaving California in droves". Santa Rosa Press Democrat. 2021-12-05. Retrieved 2023-06-16.
  2. ^ "'Cal Exodus' debunked? UC survey finds Californians aren't leaving the state any more than usual". ABC7 Los Angeles. 2021-07-08. Retrieved 2023-06-16.
  3. ^ "Unpopular California: 11% fewer Americans moved to the state over 5 years". Orange County Register. 2023-06-07. Retrieved 2023-06-16.
  4. ^ "California Exodus? Growth Rate At Record Low As More People Leave". KPIX 5 CBS San Francisco. CBS Broadcasting Inc. 16 December 2020. Retrieved 27 January 2021.
  5. ^ Song, Sharon (5 January 2021). "Study shows California exodus, with more people leaving the state despite the pandemic". KTVU FOX 2 (San Francisco). FOX Television Stations. Retrieved 27 January 2021.
  6. ^ Molinski, Michael (8 January 2021). "Coronavirus May Be The Tipping Point In New York And California Exodus". Investor's Business Daily. Investor's Business Daily, Inc.
  7. ^ a b c "Droves of Californians are moving to Texas. Here's the life they are finding". Los Angeles Times. 2023-11-06. Retrieved 2023-11-08.
  8. ^ Lin, Summer (2022-07-29). "California exodus continues, with L.A., San Francisco leading the way: 'Why are we here?'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2023-06-16.
  9. ^ Leonard, Christian (2023-10-22). "California exodus: Charts show huge shift in which U.S. states most people are moving to". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2023-11-08.
  10. ^ a b Bureau, US Census. "State-to-State Migration Flows". The United States Census Bureau.
  11. ^ "The California Gold Rush | American Experience | PBS". Retrieved 2023-06-03.
  12. ^ a b "Column: California isn't 'hemorrhaging' people, but there are reasons for concern". Los Angeles Times. December 24, 2020.
  13. ^ "653,551 folks left California in 2019. Where did they go?". The Orange County Register. November 9, 2020.
  14. ^ "Net Migration Between California and Other States: 1955-1960 and 1995-2000". United States Census Bureau. March 7, 2013.
  15. ^ "California's growth rate at record low as more people leave". CNBC. December 16, 2020.
  16. ^ Beam, Adam (23 December 2019). "California's Population Stalls Just Shy of 40 Million". AP.
  17. ^ Avalos, George (4 May 2022). "Exodus: Bay Area, California population dropped in 2021 as people exited". BANG.
  18. ^ Bekiempis, Victoria (2021-07-09). "The much-discussed 'California exodus' isn't real, study finds". The Guardian. Retrieved 2022-01-30.
  19. ^ Kousser, Thad; Reller, Cassidy. "Do Californians See their State Moving in the Right Direction, Or Do they See Themselves Moving out of California?" (PDF). University of California.
  20. ^ a b c d "Study: California population drain is real; State is "hemorrhaging" residents to other states - CBS San Francisco". 2023-10-26. Retrieved 2023-11-08.
  21. ^ a b Dymond Green (13 June 2022). "The California exodus continues as residents head south of the border". CNBC.
  22. ^ a b "California's population dropped by 500,000 in two years as exodus continues". Los Angeles Times. 2023-02-15. Retrieved 2023-03-04.
  23. ^ "California Looks Into the Future — and Sees Fewer Californians". 2023-07-22. Retrieved 2023-11-08.
  24. ^ "California Exodus: Once growing rapidly, state population projected to remain the same through 2060". Santa Cruz Sentinel. 2023-07-26. Retrieved 2023-11-08.
  25. ^ "California's population drain | Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR)". Retrieved 2023-11-08.
  26. ^ Miller, Kenneth P (23 March 2022). "What is causing californians to leave the state?". San Bernardo Sun. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  27. ^ Sen, Conor (2023-10-30). "Exodus From New York and San Francisco Is Far From Over". Washington Post.
  28. ^ "'California Exodus': Why Are So Many People Leaving The Golden State?". Retrieved 2021-06-28.
  29. ^ "What companies have left California since COVID?". KRON4. 2022-06-23. Retrieved 2023-05-26.
  30. ^ "Column: California isn't 'hemorrhaging' people, but there are reasons for concern". Los Angeles Times. December 24, 2020.
  31. ^ Chokshi, Niraj (2021-10-07). "Tesla Will Move Its Headquarters to Austin, Texas, in Blow to California". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-05-27.
  32. ^ Bushard, Brian (February 22, 2023). "Tesla Shifts Its Engineering Headquarters Back To California". Forbes. Retrieved 2023-05-27.
  33. ^ Ronayne, Kathleen (2021-04-27). "California losing congressional seat for first time". AP News. Retrieved 2023-12-02.
  34. ^ Skelley, Geoffrey (2021-04-26). "Which States Won — And Lost — Seats In The 2020 Census?". FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved 2023-12-02.
  35. ^ Hammond, George; Kinder, Tabby (2023-05-18). "What if San Francisco never pulls out of its 'doom loop'?". Financial Times. Retrieved 2023-06-03.
  36. ^ "Homeless Populations Are Rising around California". Public Policy Institute of California. Retrieved 2023-06-03.
  37. ^ Hammond, George; Kinder, Tabby (2023-05-18). "What if San Francisco never pulls out of its 'doom loop'?". Financial Times. Retrieved 2023-05-26.
  38. ^ Feng, Alice (May 5, 2023). "Downtown San Francisco continues to struggle as more businesses leave". Axios.
  39. ^ SFGATE, Alex Shultz (2023-05-19). "Media's SF 'doom loop' obsession has turned into a doom loop". SFGATE. Retrieved 2023-05-26.