The California exodus is speeding up

California is on its way to shrinking.
California is on its way to shrinking.
Image: Reuters/Mike Blake
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People have long dreamed of moving to California, but increasingly the people in the state are looking to get out.

According to recently released data from the US Census, about 38,000 more people left California than entered it in 2018. This is the second straight year that migration to the state was negative, and it’s a trend that is speeding up. Every year since 2014, net migration has fallen.

California’s population did still increase in 2018 by almost 160,000 people, largely due to the 480,000 people born in the state. But while migration out of the state has accelerated over the past few years, the number of annual births has been steady. The trend suggests in the next decade California’s population will begin to decline.

Besides births, the main reason California’s population hasn’t already started falling has been international migration into the state. Every year since 2011, net domestic migration has been negative—i.e., more people leave California than move in from other states. But from 2011 to 2016, the number of international migrants moving into California was larger than the number of locals who were moving out.

Since then, however, domestic departures have outstripped international arrivals. In 2018, 156,000 locals left the state, compared to 118,000 international who came.

Where are people going? Mostly cheaper states nearby, like Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon, as well as Texas, according to an analysis from the Sacramento Bee. As housing in California continues to skyrocket in expense, it increasingly makes sense to leave. According to the real estate company Zillow, the average house in California has risen from about $300,000 in 2012, to about $550,000 in 2019. Those numbers have scared many a family out of the state.