Despite the exodus from California, the affluent and educated still congregate here. Will they stay?

(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

Despite the exodus from California, the affluent and educated still congregate here. Will they stay?

For LA Times subscribers, home design, education, California politics

Terry Castleman
Ashley Ahn

January 18, 2024

Thomas Kowal knew the cost of living in Los Angeles would be high. But he was surprised at how steep.

Kowal, 25, had lived on the East Coast most of his life, but he applied to UCLA for a PhD program in toxicology because, he said, he wanted a change of pace and environment, and he hoped to get the kind of salary deserve that he got next. graduation

that would

let him afford the California lifestyle.

When I came here for a few days for job interviews, nothing really struck me as the gas prices, the sales prices that you notice once you sit down in front of them, he said. You can definitely see some warning signs, and I was asked to ignore them because I knew my main interest was living here.

Despite California’s high cost of living, the state has continued to attract better-educated and well-paid residents.

New census data debunks the idea that California’s housing and affordability crisis is pushing away educated residents, resulting in a so-called “brain drain.”

The numbers suggest that California’s strong economy in sectors such as technology, medicine and entertainment, as well as its admired higher education network, continues to attract people.

But some factors

who sparked the exodus

High home prices in particular could still send people like Kowal out of California to places where their income and degree can buy more.

In 2022, nearly two-thirds of those who moved to California from out of state had a bachelor’s degree or higher, as did more than half of those who moved from other countries, according to census data.

Although the state’s population decreased from 2021 to 2022, the number of people with a bachelor’s degree increased by 1.6% and the number of people with a college degree increased by 2.6%, the data show.

The number of Californians over 25 with less than a college degree shrank by 1.4% over the same period.

New transplants from other states focus primarily on higher education, with almost as many 91,000 college or professional degree holders coming from other parts of the U.S. as 105,000 bachelor’s degree holders.

Those who come from other countries are also disproportionately highly educated, although that group includes more people with lower incomes and lower education levels. Of those who came to California from abroad, 28% were below the poverty line in 2022, compared to 12% statewide

in 2021,

according to census data.

California is losing population for an unprecedented third year. It could cost the state real power

Over the past five years, California has experienced a net loss of college graduates in the state’s exchanges with other states, said Hans Johnson, a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, describing a “reversal of the long-standing pattern.”

Like the population decline during the exodus from California, the loss of educated residents “has slowed quite a bit,” he said. At its highest point, the peak was “a pretty remarkable number,” with nearly 90,000 more graduates leaving than arriving.

The outflow will have decreased in 2022

to a net loss


just over 30,000.

The loss of skilled workers sparked discussion about a possible “brain drain” amid the state’s broader population problems. But Johnson said that after some pandemic disruption, the state’s previous pattern of attracting skilled workers is resurfacing.

“California has long tended to attract young college graduates in their early 20s who are just starting their careers,” he said, and “that group is net positive again.”

LA Times poll: Younger, older Californians have starkly different views on the war between Israel and Hamas

The state’s economy has “grown fastest for highly skilled workers” and has rewarded those workers with high wages, he said. “They come knowing that housing will become more expensive,” but with skills and jobs that will allow them to afford it.

This move neutralizes another piece of the population puzzle: the loss of high-income Californians and their tax revenues.

Internal Revenue Service data shows that those who moved from the Golden State to places like Florida and New Hampshire between 2020 and 2021 had much higher incomes than the average Californian.

Educated people arriving in California and students heading for higher-paying jobs could help offset that shortage, experts say.

Kowal, who grew up in Hadley, Massachusetts, and attended college in Atlanta, sees the state’s housing and affordability crisis from the perspective of a student scraping by on a $47,000-a-year PhD grant.

The only thing that could keep him in California is a $120,000 salaried job after he graduates in two or three years, he said. And even then, that may not be enough.

“I think between gas prices, taxes, higher food prices and rent, everyone has a hand in your wallet,” he said. The experience is not worth all that expense in my opinion. That’s why I would have such a high asking price to stay here.

Still, Kowal said, he has many peers, especially those from California who end up staying here.

He said he would consider moving to San Diego, where he enjoys visiting when he has free time. But when asked if he would take a job with the same salary in San Diego or Atlanta, he said after a long pause: Yes, I would probably go to Atlanta.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Hot Topics

Related Articles