Friday, February 3, 2017

Why are so many people leaving California? (Or are they?)

Once a year or so, some reporter at some big national media outlet (almost never located in California), writes an article about the “exodus” of residents moving out of California. Their “the sky is falling” headlines usually document the large number of people that leave the state every year, as well as the exorbitant price of real estate, cost of living, an abundance of taxes, and other factors that are turning fertile California into a soon-to-be population wasteland.

While these articles stir up some readers and seemingly tell us what we already know when it comes to the high cost of living in California, they also happen to be largely untrue – or at least inaccurate depending on how you view the issue.

So we searched high and low for credible statistics and facts about population changes in California and will present our conclusions to you in this two-part series of blogs.

Here are 15 facts about the “exodus” of residents leaving California:

1. According to a recent US Census Bureau report, the state of California has “negative out-migration” to other states, with 129,233 residents leaving to live in other states in 2015 alone. That number represents the largest number of migrants to leave California since the recession ended.

2. In fact, California lost about 3.5 million residents to other states between 2010 and 2015, the highest number of any state in the U.S. during that time.

3. During the 12 months ending June 30, the number of people leaving California for another state exceeded by 61,100 the number who moved here from elsewhere in the U.S., according to state Finance Department statistics. The so-called "net outward migration" was the largest since 2011 when 63,300 more people fled California than entered.

4. While it may sound like an alarming number of Californians have moved out of the state since 2010, California has actually experienced negative outward migration in 22 of the last 25 years, so the trend isn’t new.

5. Remember, too, that California also took in 2.9 million new residents between 2010 and 2015, so a whole lot of people were moving into our state. In fact, only Florida (+3.2 million) and Texas (+3.1 million) had more new residents.

6. The conversation about the number of people that leave California needs to be framed by the fact that California is also the state with the largest population in the US, with 38.7 million residents in 2015.

7. Therefore, the population outflow represented a per-capital rate of 1.3 percent of its population annually for California, which is far below the US average rate of 2.3 percent of residents moving out of state that we documented above.

8. How does that compare with other states and the national average? From 2010 to 2015, an average of 2.3 percent of Americans moved across state lines every year – so California is far below the national average.

9. The states with the highest negative migration were Alaska (-11.6 percent), Wyoming (-5.4 percent), and North Dakota (-3.89 percent).

10. Remember that narrative that everyone is leaving California for Texas? While Texas is the top destination for departing California residents, it also had the second-largest negative migration pattern in the US behind California over that term. New York (-2.5 million people) and Florida (-2 million people) were next on the list.

11. In fact, no state had a lower per-capita movement rate than California’s 1.55 percent from 2010 to 2015! Texas (-1.6 percent) and Ohio and Michigan -1.8 percent) were next.

12. How did California fare in 2015? We lost 643,710 residents to other states in 2015, up 8 percent from 2014 and up 12 percent from the end of the recession. While that number may sound huge, California still had the second-lowest departure rate in the US in 2015, with Texas losing the most residents to other states.

13. 2015 was also a hot year for inter-state migration in general – not just for departing Californians. That year, 35 out of our 50 states saw a higher rate of departing residents. In total, interstate moves were up 2.4 percent in 2015 compared with 2014, and 12 percent higher than 2010.

14. Any discussion about people moving into and out of California needs to include a note about foreign migrants. In fact, between 2010 and 2015, California added 1.7 million new foreign residents from abroad, the highest in the country ahead of  Texas (+1.2 million) and Florida (+1.1 million.)

15. Foreigners added to California’s population a rate of about 0.76 percent annually since 201, well ahead of the US rate of 0.6 percent per year. If you look at it by per-capita population, California was the eighth-highest state for international new residents behind Hawaii, Massachusetts, Florida, Washington, New York, Maryland, and Virginia.

In part two of this blog, we’ll look at the most common factors why people are moving out of California, including real estate and housing prices, the cost of living, and taxes.

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