Where do people go when they leave California and why? – The Ukiah Journal

Among the reasons California’s population has declined is the possibility of people working from other states where they can spend less on housing. (Illustration: Jeff Durham/Bay Area News Group)

The headline number was eye-opening: About 725,000 people moved from California in 2020 to establish a new life in one of the other 49 states or in Washington, D.C.

If that were the end, the number, derived from Internal Revenue Service migration data for 2021, would have represented the largest one-year exodus in state history.

But it was not the end. While experts say the reasons are more subtle than single-year gross output, California’s population has been steadily declining since 2020. Recent state data shows California’s population today is just under 39 million, after flirting with 40 million just four years ago.

Lots of other new data shows where people are going (Texas, Idaho and Florida, as well as neighboring Arizona and Nevada). Survey reports show who is leaving (higher-income, well-educated workers have only recently begun to join a migration pattern that has traditionally been dominated by low-income people). And yet other data shows that at least some of the financial and social challenges troubling California—rising home prices, stagnant wages, crime—are not all that different in the states that attract the most former Californians.

“I didn’t think I would miss it. And in many ways he was right; I don’t,” said laughing Debbie Higbee, who last year moved from Burbank to Boise, Idaho, with her husband and their three children.

“But I’m also not one of those people who hate California,” he added. “I really don’t understand all that.

“For me, it’s fine there. And it’s not like things are perfect here either. Both places have good and bad things.

Blip or trend?

That exodus of 725,000 people was a frontline number, not a network. But California’s actual internal migration in 2020, with the state losing about 331,000 more people than it gained back from the other states, was encouraging, even for people who closely follow these things.

“Yeah, that was great,” said political scientist Eric McGhee, a senior fellow at the California Public Policy Institute and co-author of a blog on state politics, demographics and other California population issues.

But McGhee, echoing others studying California, was quick to add: “It wasn’t surprising. For at least the last 30 years, California has exported more people to other states than we have imported.”

In fact, McGhee’s blog tracked the data month by month last year and found that, from July 2021 to July 2022, California lost about 407,000 people to other states, almost certainly the largest such change in history. state history.

“There have been a handful of years in the last few decades where we had a net gain, but the typical result is that we lose people,” McGhee said.

But, in most years, it has also been typical for outbound internal migration to be offset by inbound international immigration, with more people moving to California from around the world than moving to Texas and Idaho and the like. That was not the case in 2020.

And, in most years, the state’s population has not been surprised by a pandemic-induced rise in deaths and a corresponding drop in births. And, most years, thousands of employers in the state did not impose mass layoffs for a relatively short period of time, then rehire at a dizzying pace, and eventually decided to let millions of workers do their jobs from home, no matter what. where they will meet could be. All of that happened in the first year of the pandemic.

Bottom line: Not only did California’s population grow more slowly in 2020 than before, it actually shrank by nearly 359,000. That happened again in 2021, when California dropped by 114,000 people.

Then the pandemic ended, but California’s population decline did not.

According to data released this month by the California Department of Finance, the contraction continued last year, with the state losing about 139,000 people. State officials now estimate California’s population at approximately 38,940,231, the first time it has been below 39 million since 2015.