Over 500,000 people left California in two years: report

Over 500,000 Californians left the state in the two years after the pandemic began due to rising housing costs and crowded, crime-filled cities, according to a report.

Between April 2020 and July 2022 the number of those leaving California surpassed the number of people moving in by more than 700,000, The Los Angeles Times reported.

According to The Times, unaffordable housing, long commute times, crowds, crime and pollution in urban areas —which have also been plagued by homelessness — were primary reasons people left. 

The rise in remote employment, which allows people to not have to live near big cities for work, was also a factor in the population change, the newspaper reported.

While migration out of the state is slowing as the effects of the pandemic end, experts told The Times it could take California years to recover before it again sees population growth that made it the country’s most populous state.

Between July 2021 and July 2022, California lost roughly 211,000 people according to data from California’s Department of Finance.

Half of those — 113,048, were from Los Angeles County alone.

Tents belonging to homeless people are seen by new highrise developments alongside a freway ramp in Los Angeles
California’s population loss was second only to New York state’s between April 2020 and July 2022.
AFP via Getty Images

Los Angeles County — California’s largest county — lost around 160,000 in the last 12 months with most leaving for other states.

Dowell Myers, a professor of policy, planning, and demography at the University of Southern California, told The Times that a majority of those who left the state were city-dwellers who left to seek “safe refuge during the pandemic,” with family and friends.

One of the biggest issues is California’s ability to retain young people who move there.

California “still attracts them, it just can’t hold them as well,” Myers said. Many young people flock to California and find themselves with exorbitant rent costs before deciding to move to different states with cheaper housing.

New homes line the mountainside in this Northwest Reno suburb, located near the California border
New homes line the mountainside in this Northwest Reno suburb, located near the California border. Many California residents have left for cheaper housing in Nevada.
Getty Images

“People who are leaving are much more likely to be homeowners after they leave,” he explained.

Lower housing prices, increased immigration and more births could boost the state’s population, Myers said.

Myers told the paper that by 2023, he believes the “annual change will be much closer to zero.” By 2024, it should turn positive again, he said.

Paul Ong, director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at University of California Los Angeles, told The Times that a number of socio-economic factors are pushing people out of the state, but housing costs were the biggest impetus.

“While salaries in other regions and states are lower, the cost of housing is even lower,” he said. “This means that they have a higher standard of living because of more disposable income and/or high chance of owning.”

Many Californians have settled in neighboring states like Nevada and Utah — with Utah reportedly dissuading Californians from moving in.

Net migration out of California surpassed that of New York, the next highest state, by about 143,000 people, according to The Times.

However, California added about 157,000 more people from natural change — the difference in number between births and deaths — than New York, making The Empire State’s population loss greater.

Meanwhile, Texas gained about 884,000 people and Florida gained about 707,000 people in the same time period.

More New Yorkers moved to Florida in 2022 than any other year in history.

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