Publications

California Migration

March 3, 2016

Despite having the third highest rate of low-wage job creation in the nation, California could face a shortage of low-wage workers as housing costs push residents out in search of affordability. According to a trio of new studies, low- and middle-wage workers are leaving California even as large numbers of higher-wage earners continue to arrive. And all together, more people are moving out than moving in.

In recent years, California has experienced negative domestic migration, meaning more people are moving from California to other states than the number of residents moving to California from other parts of the country. Statistics on the characteristics of California's inbound and outbound migrants suggest patterns in migration over the past decade are more related to housing costs than tax structure. Despite seeing an overall negative net domestic migration, California is continuing to attract new residents. Despite the rhetoric regarding California's oppressive tax regime or its overall hostility to business, individuals coming to California are primarily concentrated in high-wage occupations, which enable them to better absorb the state's high housing costs and cost of living.

The report's main findings include:

  • California experienced a negative net domestic migration of 625,000 from 2007 to 2014. In other words, 625,000 more people moved out of California to other states than moved in to California from other states.
  • The vast majority of the out-migrants went to just five states: Texas, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, and Washington.
  • California was a net importer of residents from 15 states and the District of Columbia from 2007 to 2014.
  • Californians 25 years of age and over that do not possess four-year college degrees accounted for over 469,800 out-migrants. However, California was actually a net importer of nearly 52,700 residents with a bachelor's degree or higher.
  • California remains the top state attracting international migrants, many of which are low-income earners and those that have obtained a bachelor's degree.

More information on California migration trends compared to other states available at Compare50.org.