California's High Housing Costs Drives Out-Migration

Same story, different year, though more data provided on which groups are leaving the Golden State: predominantly workers earning less than $50,000 a year. Conversely, those migrating to California from other states had higher incomes and education.
January 7, 2015, 11am PST | Irvin Dawid
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"The state overall has been losing people to other parts of the country since the 1990s," writes Chris Kirkham, who covers the California economy for the Los Angeles Times. "A snapshot of more recent U.S. Census migration numbers shows that nearly three-quarters of those who have left California for other states since 2007 earn less than $50,000 a year."

Losing these workers poses a challenge to the state's economic future, states Jordan Levine, director of economic research at Los Angeles-based Beacon Economics, who points to high housing prices as the primary cause, as does Dowell Myers, a professor of demography and urban planning at University of Southern California (USC). "Housing prices are a primary factor, because that's usually the first thing you deal with when you're moving," he said. [In an earlier piece, he notes the significance of retaining native-born Californians.]

Census surveys back that up. According to data from the Census' Current Population Survey, those moving out of the state over the last 15 years listed housing as one of the most common factors, behind only family and job concerns.

According to the new Census data, net migration was a loss of 247,515 workers from 2007 to 2013. The most popular state for emigrants remains Texas for those years was Texas with 82,154 people. Arizona, Nevada, Washington, and Oregon were also popular destinations.

The out-migration is not new—it is a "trend that dates to at least the late 1980s, according to demographic expert William Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington."

On the domestic immigration side, Kirkham writes that "the influx of higher-income, college-educated migrants from other states to California has been on the upswing since the recession, according to Census data." While that might seem to be a net plus, it also places pressure on middle income families who remain in California.

For the people who can afford to go there, get the jobs and do well, the cost of living is not as much a problem," Frey said. "It's just difficult to live there in the middle."

The Census Bureau reported on Dec. 23 that "California remained the nation’s most populous state in 2014, with 38.8 million residents." On Dec. 11, the state Department of Finance reported (posted here) that "the state grew by 335,000 people to 38.5 million, nearly one percent, despite a declining birth rate." The discrepancy is typical, because the two agencies make their reports using different data.

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Published on Thursday, January 1, 2015 in Los Angeles Times
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