Why Californians are fleeing this once golden state

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Why Californians are fleeing this once golden state

California Politics

George Skelton

April 8, 2024

It seems like just yesterday that California had nearly 40 million residents. Then more people left the state. Now we weren’t even at 39 million.

The US Census Bureau reported in March that California’s population had fallen to an estimated 38,965,000 as of July last year. That is a decrease of 75,400 in one year


573,000 below California’s 2020 peak of 39.5 million.

As we enter this century, when California’s still-growing population was 34 million, it was predicted that we would reach 45 million by 2020 and almost 60 million by 2040. To the extent that.

People have fled this once golden state. And the exodus accelerated on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s watch.

That probably won’t be highlighted in Newsom’s State of the State address


he always gives one this year. It is already three months past the time when governors have traditionally done their utmost

expected, annual address.

Newsom hates giving prepared speeches. But he loves pitching California. And a runaway bourgeoisie doesn’t fit into its usual narrative, which is all great.

In any case, the fact that Newsom has been governor while voters fled the state is largely coincidental. Certainly, public policy decisions have motivated some people to leave. But they probably would have left no matter who

what the



California has simply grown too big for its carrying capacity

at least in the sprawling ranch lifestyle that so many people covet and that the states easily symbolize

living personality.

Growth and growth and growth and eventually there isn’t enough room, says Hans Johnson, a demographer at the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.

The easy places to grow have been used up. Growth today means infill development [in cities]. That is expensive and controversial. Or you live further away from work.

Or move out of state and find cheaper housing almost anywhere.

Out-of-state migration is the leading cause of California’s continued population loss. But there are even more reasons



After the second World War

Baby boomers, baby boomers, those

born between 1946 and 1964


start to die. And their children and grandchildren haven’t produced enough babies to replace them.

California’s fertility rate has fallen faster than elsewhere [states]the

PPIC Institute for Public Policy

reported in October. In 2008 the percentage was above the national average (2.15). In 2020, it fell to the seventh lowest level (1.52).



The pandemic claimed a death toll, especially among the elderly. Overall, California deaths increased 19% in 2020 over the previous year

PPIC Institute


The pandemic also virtually halted foreign immigration to California. It was the main driver of population growth for many years. When COVID hit, visa restrictions were invoked to ease visa restrictions

virus the virus


Legal and undocumented immigration have increased since the pandemic, but not to previous levels


close, says Johnson.

California is no longer the favorite destination it used to be.

First, Johnson says, Mexico’s birth rate has fallen significantly and the labor market is less competitive. Fewer Mexicans are moving north in search of work, although many Central Americans are seeking asylum, especially in other states.

And another thing


Demographers generally do not delve into: the Trump administration’s policies that mainly restrict illegal immigration. The Biden administration calmed down.

But the biggest reason for the population loss is that people are moving, Johnson says. That has slowed down, but we are still losing hundreds of thousands to other states. That’s a net loss when people moving to California are taken into account.

And why are they leaving? Mainly because of the high cost of living in California, especially housing. That’s the biggest reason movers give.

The average cost of a home in California was nearly $800,000 in November, more than double the $336,000 you’d pay in Texas, according to Redfin housing market data. In neighboring Arizona and Nevada


it was $435,000 and $479,000 respectively. These are destination states for departing Californians.

Blame it on California’s high land and labor costs, plus the regulatory morass and neighborhood resistance to growth. Newsom and lawmakers have been grappling with these issues for years and have passed new laws, but they haven’t made much progress in making home buying more affordable.

During the pandemic, Johnson says, highly skilled people who had the option to work remotely began leaving California because they could find affordable housing and do their jobs from home instead of commuting long distances.

So higher

income earners began moving to states like Texas and Nevada, which did not impose income taxes. California has the highest income tax rate in the state, 13.3%. We also have high sales and gas taxes. Were a high tax state, a fact Newsom poop





There is evidence that some conservatives are leaving California because they cannot tolerate our liberal politics.

Many were likely unhappy with Newsom’s closure of stores and schools during the pandemic. Other states were less restrictive.

Idaho’s secretary of state reported in November that of the nearly 30,000 ex-Californians who had moved to the Gem State, 75% had registered to vote as Republicans. Only 10% registered as Democrats.

That’s bad news for California’s declining GOP.

What else does California’s continued population loss mean?

More space on the highways and less traffic jams in general.

Less pressure on our unstable water supply.

But also less tax revenue. With the top 20% of earners


families earning at least $120,000 per year

to deliver

91% of the state income tax, a continued exodus will certainly lighten Sacramento’s pockets. The state is currently facing a budget deficit of tens of billions of dollars. There is debate about the exact amount.

California loses national political influence as people leave. We will likely have to give up two more seats in the U.S. House after the 2030 census. We lost one in 2020, when we were still growing.

One way to make California more attractive would be to offer a benefit that worked well for generations until the state got greedy in the 1970s: free tuition at public universities for California residents. That would at least help prevent a brain drain.


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