California vs. Florida: Why Do People Move from One State to Another?

(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

California vs. Florida: Why Do People Move from One State to Another?

Homepage News, California Politics

Hailey Branson Potts

November 29, 2023

After fifteen years in Florida, Valsin Marmillion decided it was time to get out.

Marmillion, a longtime campaign strategist, worked as an adjunct lecturer in journalism at the University of Florida. He taught global activism and social change communications, discussing current topics such as fake news and the Black Lives Matter movement.

After four semesters, the online course was canceled without warning this spring, he said.

Marmillion, 73, had already had enough of Florida: of Gov. Ron DeSantis and his anti-“woke” rhetoric. With textbook bans. With the state’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law and an environment that feels increasingly unsafe for LGBTQ+ people like him.

So in late July, Marmillion and his husband, Juan Pisani, said goodbye to their small horse farm in Alachua, piled into their SUV with their three dogs, Frida, Gaucho and Paco, and drove to the progressive bastion that is California.

“We are cultural refugees,” says Marmillion, who has now settled in Rancho Mirage, where he is semi-retired and does some public relations work while his husband works as a tennis instructor. “Just the sense of openness, that’s what we were missing. The sense of acceptance, the realization that individual rights are very important and that they should be protected and strengthened, not taken away.”

In September, Guerin Farley went in the opposite direction, moving from an apartment in West Hollywood to his parents’ home in the Florida Panhandle. His reasons had nothing to do with politics.

“What was really sad was my wallet,” said Farley, 38, a talent manager who had lived in California for nine years. “Even if you make six figures in LA, you’re barely making ends meet.”

Such cross-border moves between progressive California and conservative Florida have played a major role in the rivalry between DeSantis and the governor. Gavin Newsom, who will debate Thursday night on Fox News about whose state offers a better model for the country.

Newsom, widely seen as a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2028, took out a campaign ad in Florida last year encouraging that state’s residents to leave.

“Republican leaders, they ban books, make it harder to vote, restrict speech in classrooms and even criminalize women and doctors. I urge all of you who live in Florida to join the fight, or join us in California, where we still believe in freedom, freedom of speech, freedom to choose, freedom from hatred and the freedom to love, Newsom said in the ad.

And DeSantis, a Republican looking to revive his struggling presidential campaign, said this spring that people are fleeing overpriced California for Florida.

If you look over the past four years, we have witnessed a major American exodus from states ruled by left-wing politicians who impose left-wing ideology and produce bad results, DeSantis said.

More Californians are moving to Florida than the other way around, but the number moving in either direction is minuscule compared to the population of each state.



About 29,000 Florida residents moved to California, the nation’s most populous state, with 39 million residents, last year, according to recently released census data.

Meanwhile, nearly 51,000 people moved from California to Florida, a fast-growing state with 22 million residents.

California’s population has decreased by more than 500,000 during Newsom’s term, while Florida’s population has increased by more than 700,000 under DeSantis’ leadership.

“Florida is booming. But its population isn’t growing because of Californians,” said Eric McGhee, a political scientist at the Public Policy Institute of California, who noted that people are typically leaving California for closer destinations.

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Arizona and Texas.

Despite the rhetoric, he said, people are mainly moving to other states, including Florida, which has no land

individual state

income tax for economic reasons such as high housing costs, not for political reasons.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the increase in remote work, especially for high-income white-collar workers, has accelerated this trend, says McGhee’s colleague, demographer Hans Johnson.

“We don’t know how that will play out in the future,” Johnson said. There are increasing “signs that companies are trying to lure people back to California,” including requiring in-person work and cutting salaries for workers who live in cheaper states, he said.

For many who have recently made the cross-border move between the Golden State and the Sunshine State, the rivalry and rhetoric between the two governors is entertaining, but mostly just noise.

“Life is all about tradeoffs,” says Matt Pressberg, who moved from Century City to South Florida with his wife in 2021. “Despite a lot of bad politics and legislation in Florida that I don’t agree with, the overall quality of life for me and my wife is significantly better here.”

Pressberg, 41, and his wife were both native Angelenos. He grew up in Tarzana. She grew up on the West Side. They thought they would never leave.

Subsequently, his PR job became completely remote during the pandemic. They exchanged their small condominium for a 3,000 square meter plot,


one-bedroom house in Boca Raton. Pressberg works from his home office in his pool house.



It’s easy for right-wingers to say that Californians are moving because they are unhappy with progressive politics,” said Pressberg, who voted for Newsom. “That is Fox News’ view, but it is not the truth. There are certainly quality of life issues in California that can be attributed to political choices, but it’s not that simple. It’s about housing and economic opportunity.”

Farley, who grew up in the small Florida Panhandle town of Gulf Breeze, moved to Southern California in 2014 to work in entertainment and lived primarily in West Hollywood.

He worked full time, but could afford less and less outside rent and bills. Travel was increasingly out of the question. Own a house? Forget it.

This fall, Farley packed everything he owned into his 2015 Ford Focus and drove home to Florida, listening to “Lord of the Rings” audiobooks and obsessing over Buc-ee and Love gas stations along the way.

He plans to earn a second degree in computer science from the University of West Florida and update his finances.

Farley said that while conservative politics in Florida are “more intense and polarizing” than when he was growing up, he doesn’t feel unsafe as a gay man and a progressive Democrat. Personally, he said, most people are warm, friendly and generous.


“The people here are good people,” he said. “Southern hospitality is real.”

There is another advantage. Farley believes his vote as a Democrat is more powerful in the deeply conservative district represented by far-right U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz than in deep blue California.

Will he follow the Newsom-DeSantis debate?

“Reluctantly,” he said. “Me and my parents will probably sit by the TV and roll our eyes.”

After living in Southern California for about two decades, Krystle Meyer, a 40-year-old attorney, also moved to Florida this year. She was driven, she said, by financial pressures, homelessness and a deep frustration with California’s COVID-19 restrictions.

“My salary increases were not greater than my rent increases,” she said. “I lost money every year.”

In 2019, Meyer rented a 6,000-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment in Marina del Rey for about $3,500 a month.

After a terrifying encounter with a homeless man wielding a machete while walking to a movie theater, she moved to another one-bedroom apartment nearby, in a nicer building with tighter security. It costs $5,000 per month.

Money was tightening, she said, but for her time in California, “COVID was the final straw.”

For most of 2020, she strictly followed guidelines from California health officials and rarely left her apartment. The state’s messages seemed to suggest to her that if you visited loved ones you were being selfish and “you would kill them,” she said.

By Labor Day

that year,

her loneliness and fear became too much. She boarded a plane at LAX masked, terrified of the virus, and disinfected everything she touched and flew to visit her parents, who lived part-time in South Florida, near Palm Beach.

“When I landed in Florida, no one was wearing masks. Nobody cared. Everything was open. I thought, wait, you’ve been living like this for so long and you’re not dead? I thought, ‘What the hell am I doing?'”

Her parents offered her their condominium, where they only stay a few times a year, and she moved permanently in April. Her new home is a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean and is twice the size of her apartment in Marina del Rey.

“It’s amazing,” she said of her life in Florida. “I have no regrets.”

Meanwhile, Meyer’s good friend and fellow attorney, Cheryl Ainsworth, moved to California from Florida in 2007 and never looked back.

When Ainsworth and her husband left the Sunshine State as Barack Obama was running for president, it felt like Florida was “becoming more restrictive and less appreciative of diversity, cultural and otherwise,” she said.

Shortly after Obama’s election, she and her husband returned for a Florida Gators football game. She was shocked by the number of Confederate flags she saw flying.

“It’s not fair to paint the entire state, like California, with a broad brush,” said Ainsworth, 45. “But it definitely feels much more conservative than before, in a way that no longer seems purely philosophical.”

Ainsworth, her husband and three large dogs, a German shepherd, a golden retriever and a pointer mix, moved into a rental house with a yard in Encino in February.


She rents well, high prices and all. Sure, she thinks, she could own a house in Florida, but she’d much rather live in California.

“People ask me all the time if I’ll ever move back,” Ainsworth said. “I say, ‘Something went terribly wrong when I moved back to Florida.'”


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