People Are Fleeing California

In December of 2020, The Los Angeles Times attempted to ease alarm over California’s declining population narrative in a column titled, “California Isn’t ‘Hemorrhaging’ People, but There are Reasons for Concern.” The data simply appears to indicate otherwise, however. Comparatively, California has been losing residents at a record pace.

With data cited by the LA Times article itself, it can be noted that “California’s population growth in the year ended July 1 fell to 0.05%, a level not seen since 1900. The trend was attributed in part to a “continued exodus” of residents exasperated by the cost of living.” A deeper dive reveals trends that are indeed “reason for concern.”

In an article published on December 31st, The Daily Beast reports, “The Golden State’s population has started declining for the first time, with new data from the state Department of Finance showing a population loss of 173,000 for the year ended July 1, 2021.” While California remains the most populace state, there will be political ramifications for this unwelcomed milestone, as the state will now lose one House seat in Congress, according to NBC News.

It appears that negative population trends suffered in some of California’s largest and most iconic cities may now be catching up to the state in general, as well. The Beast notes, “From 2000 to 2020, Census Bureau estimates indicate that metro Los Angeles has lost 2.2 million net domestic migrants, metro San Francisco 400,000, metro San Diego 200,000 and metro San Jose 400,000…”

It is also noteworthy that young people and those making middle class incomes are leaving the state. “Only 14 percent of the increased net domestic migration from 2012 to 2019 has been among those making less than $25,000, according to IRS data, while those making more than $100,000 accounted for 38 percent of the exodus (and the rate of departure was even higher for those making far more).” A UC Berkeley poll from September 2019 noted that 52% of registered voters polled gave “serious” or “some” thought to leaving the state.

The primary reasons which drove residents to consider fleeing the state in 2019 are certainly true today in the state. "Asked why they are considering leaving, 71% of those polled pointed to the high cost of housing. Fifty-eight percent said high taxes may send them packing and 46% said they were concerned about the state’s political culture,” UC Berkeley reported. In 2021, median housing prices in California hit record highs at $758,990 for a single family home. In 2022, California currently has the highest average gas prices in the nation, at $5.90/gallon. The high cost of living in the state is currently made worse by one of the highest unemployment rates in America as of March 2022.

Ultimately, California is facing a serious demographic problem. It is ironic that the famously prosperous state appears to be driving people out with its economic policies. People are leaving because they can’t afford to live there. People (and businesses) are leaving to escape burdensome taxation & regulations even if they can afford to live there.  If the state does not want to continue losing its prestige and manpower, politicians must acknowledge the problem and recognize that their policies are leading to the state’s failure.


Grassroots Pulse covers public policy and political issues aimed at engaging highly-active policy makers, donors, and grassroots leaders at the forefront of the political process in America today.

Image Credit: Photo by Maarten Van Den Heuvel on Unsplash

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