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The composition of the Californian population is being changed. People are leaving and fewer and fewer are coming from other states. But who are they?

You might be surprised.

We are not losing high-income people fleeing sky-high California taxes. Some do. But there are more well-off people moving here than leaving.

They can afford our rising cost of living.

The political turn of the rich abandoning California is false news.

The state mainly loses low and middle income people who cannot hack the cost of living, especially expensive housing.

In addition, recently arrived foreign immigrants are not primarily from Latin America. They are more likely highly skilled technical engineers or Asian healthcare workers.

A common perception is true: our business climate is widely seen as hostile and discouraging economic investment. There is too much paperwork to smother government regulation with mountains of fees. And these taxes.

California’s slowly growing population, reversing the historical pattern of soaring growth, was highlighted in last week’s US Census Bureau report. It showed that our population grew below the national average in the decade following the 2010 census – by 6.1%, compared to 7.4% for the country.

We added 2 million people at birth and migration and we are now at 39.5 million.

For the first time in 170 years of history, California will lose a seat in Congress and an electoral vote in the presidential election. But we will still have many more than any other state. So that’s not a big deal – unless it’s the start of a long-term pattern of California rejection and desertion.

This would reduce the workforce, slow the economy and weaken the tax base of states and local communities, including public education.

But conversely, the highways wouldn’t be so congested, there would be more room for the rest of us and less strain on our limited water supply.

Somewhere there should be an optimal balance between the status of the Rust Belt and the population explosion, which will allow us healthy economic growth.

The biggest problem in California is the high cost of housing. The latest median price for a home in Los Angeles County is $ 750,000, up 17.2% from last year. In Orange County, it’s $ 835,000. In San Francisco, forget it: $ 1.4 million.

Supply is not keeping up with demand and has not been for years.

California needs to build at least 180,000 new homes a year, experts say. He only built about 80,000.


“It takes forever to go through the approval process in California – much longer than in any other state,” says Dan Dunmoyer, president of the California Building Industry Assn.

“In California, it can take 20 years to start a project. In Arizona and all of the neighboring states, they can do it in less than 20 months. Time is money. Much of the cost of housing depends on the time required to set up the land. So how much does the local government charge. No other state comes close. “

The legislature and various governors have struggled with the housing crisis for years without agreeing on a comprehensive long-term solution.

The pandemic has created an even greater demand for single-family homes, Dunmoyer says. This is because many employees have been ordered to work from home.

“A couple living in a loft in San Francisco, stuck in a small place with a crying child, they want to have a bigger unit with a backyard,” says Dunmoyer.

“We have people buying homes in Bakersfield who can now work there using Zoom for businesses located in downtown LA Sacramento is exploding with people from the Bay Area.”

Having experienced working remotely, many employees now prefer it to aggravating travel. It can be part of the permanent future. Will people leave the state to live less while working remotely for California companies? It is unknown.

Here’s what we know about those leaving California and arriving from other states: For starters, there have been more departures than arrivals over the decade.

“The out-of-state flow has been particularly brutal over the past two years, with a net loss of nearly 500,000 people,” according to the independent Public Policy Institute of California.

“People who leave tend to be poorer and less educated than those who arrive,” says Eric McGhee, a PPIC demographer. “It’s not the rich who are leaving.”

PPIC research found a huge net loss among adults with incomes below $ 50,000, but a relatively small overall gain among those with high incomes.

It also found that 52% of recently arrived adult immigrants had at least a bachelor’s degree. Only 38% of California adults born in the United States have a college degree.

And 56% were from Asia, more than double the 27% from Latin America.

“Immigrants from India are the fastest growing and most educated group in California,” the PPIC report reads.

Foreign immigration has been slowed by the policies of the Trump administration, state demographers say.

But California’s biggest slow-growing factor is the dwindling number of babies being born, according to the state’s chief demographer, Walter Schwarm. California’s birth rate has fallen twice as much as the national average.

Why? Women here stay in college longer and then focus on careers. The couples marry later.

Another truth: “A lot of people who leave California are older,” says Schwarm. These are retirees who want to live where their money goes.

Some also follow their descendants who cannot afford to live in the state where they grew up.

Many readers have emailed me telling me that they would be happy if California’s population was smaller. But they probably wouldn’t like their own children and grandchildren to leave for a more affordable state. And it often happens.

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