Californians have had a hard time with it in recent years. Because of the state’s ballooning cost of living, many residents – particularly from middle and low income families – have departed for more affordable states.
But where did they go?
The interactive heat map colors states by popularity – the darker the shade, the more Californians moved there.
Ranked: States with Highest Californian Transplants
More than 100,000 Californians moved to Texas between 2020–21, well ahead of second place Arizona (63,000 Californians) and third ranked Nevada (55,000).
Texas has recently emerged as a popular destination, not just for Californians, but Americans from all regions. No state income tax and lower cost of living, along with a growing tech hub is pulling in Americans from all income brackets. Meanwhile, Arizona and Nevada offer similar tax and affordability benefits as well.
Here’s the full ranking of which state Californians moved to in the first full year of the pandemic.
On opposite corners of the country Washington (47,000) and Florida (41,000) round out the top five destinations for Californian expats.
On the other hand West Virginia and Delaware were the least popular spots for Californians to move to, with both attracting fewer than 1,000 people.
Ranked: Californian Net Migration
As startling as these numbers seem, it’s also useful to remember that many people also move to California, which is the biggest economic hub in the U.S.
Below we have California’s net migration numbers, accounting for those moving to the state, where a negative number implies that California lost more residents than it gained from a particular state.
Unsurprisingly, California lost the most net residents to Texas, Arizona, and Nevada. However Idaho jumps past Florida and Washington, with California losing 21,000 more residents than gained from the Gem State.
In fact, both Idaho and Nevada had the highest proportion of incoming Californians to their 2021 populations, at more than 1.38%.
On the other hand, California gained more residents than it lost from four states (New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts) and Washington D.C.
Why Are Californians Leaving?
A key driver of migration is the state’s continuing affordability challenges where housing costs have pushed home ownership out of many Californians’ reach. It is also one of the most difficult states to retire in, where $1 million can last as little as eight years.
Separately, the rise of remote work in 2020 allowed many Californians to move out of their more expensive state to cross into regions with a lower cost of living while maintaining their economic opportunities.
Within the state itself, the more rural, less populous parts have seen, proportionally, the most outward bound migration—a phenomenon occurring across America.
These sustained levels of outward migration, combined with slower population growth, has consequences. California already lost a seat in the House of Representatives after the 2020 Census (Texas gained two and Florida gained one) which results in one fewer vote in the Electoral College and proportionally lower census-guided federal spending.
At the same time however, while domestic outward migration continues, the Golden State is still successfully attracting international immigrants who are more than filling up the gaps.