The Golden State is losing residents to states with cheaper housing and lower costs of living

In 2020, California experienced a decline in population growth that the state has not experienced in over a century. The California Department of Finance found that the state had a net gain of 21, 200 residents from July 1, 2019 to July 1, 2020, a 0.05% growth rate, according to the LA Times. Though California remains the most populous state in the U.S. with 39.78 million residents, the state’s population growth rate is at its lowest since 1900. 

People are leaving the state for cities like Phoenix, Boise and Dallas in search of cheaper housing and lower taxes. The COVID-19 pandemic has also been a contributing factor in the state’s recent population decline because of the online working opportunities it has brought some and the financial strain and unemployment it has brought others.

There are also fewer children being born. From July 31, 2019 to July 31, 2020, 14,000 fewer babies were born. This is likely due to older populations residing in California, such as GenX or Boomers, who are past the age of having children along with Millennials choosing to have children later in life.

California also experienced higher rates of death among its population. Around 280,000 people died over the past year. This number is higher than in years past — partly due to an aging population in California — but also because of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the New York Times, there have been 41,655 coronavirus related deaths in California since the beginning of the pandemic.

Though COVID-19 has taken the lives of more Californians this past year, deaths are not the only way the virus has decreased the state’s population. 

The shift to working online brought about by the pandemic has given California residents the option to work the same job from home while living in a different state with a lower cost of living, according to an interview with real estate broker Scott Fuller by the LA Times. 

“If people can keep the same salary and work in a cheaper location, they’re jumping at the opportunity. The trend started before COVID,  he [Fuller] said, but the pandemic sped up the process. People considering moving in three to five years are now moving in one to two,” according to LA Times.

Another reason California residents are leaving the state is housing costs. As home prices in Southern California continue to rise despite the COVID-19 pandemic, residents who have lost jobs or experienced financial hardship are looking for cheaper housing. Many coastal residents and city dwellers have moved further inland. Of California’s 10 most populous counties, Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, San Bernardino, Santa Clara, Alameda and Contra Costa have seen a decline in residents over the past year. 

The county experiencing the highest level of population decline is LA County. From July 2019 to July 2020, LA County lost 40,036 individuals. 

LA County residents specifically are following similar trends with the rest of California in terms of their most popular out-of-state destinations. According to an article from Livabl, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Dallas have been the most popular destinations for Angelenos. The locations offer lower prices for homes — with “median home prices in the low-to high-$300,000s” said Livabl.

Not only are California’s rising housing prices spurring on emmigration, high taxes are also a likely cause of the state’s recent exodus. With the possibility of a higher income tax and wealth tax on California residents, many are also leaving in hopes of avoiding these higher rates.

Although California is seeing many leave, this downward trend began around 2016, said LA Times. This is not the first time California is experiencing population loss either. The state also saw a decline after the Cold War in the 1990s and before the Great Recession in the 2000s

People are leaving California, but for now it remains the most populous state in the U.S. and will likely continue to be in the coming years.