UC San Diego study: Data shows no mass exodus from California

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Posted at 12:40 PM, Jul 07, 2021

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A newly released study by UC San Diego said Wednesday that contrary to what's been said, there is no mass exodus from California.

The study found that "there is no evidence of an abnormal increase in residents planning to move out of the state." In fact, it found that the majority of Californians still believe in the "California Dream."

The study found that a percentage of Californians planning to leave the state has remained static for more than the past two years, and that there is no evidence showing an unusual increase in plans to leave the state, even during the pandemic.

Other findings included:

  • Spanish speakers, Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans, and younger Californians are more optimistic, while middle-class Californians, white respondents, older residents and Republicans are more pessimistic.
  • Those living in areas of the state that have not seen recent economic expansions, like the Central Valley and northern counties outside of the Bay Area, are most likely to contemplate moving.
  • Middle-class Californians making between $50,000 and $100,000 are the most concerned about the state.
  • There is actually a small gap between Democrats (21 percent) and Republicans (30 percent) seriously considering moving.
  • There was only about an 8 percent drop in Californians who think the state is one of the best places to live, from 50 percent in 2019 to 42 percent in 2021.

"Despite the popular notion of unhappy Californians leaving the state en masse, our robust research shows there is actually no exodus," said Thad Kousser, chair of the political science department at UC San Diego and the lead researcher of the most recent survey. "Most residents say that they still believe in the 'California Dream.' Policymakers, including those trying to prevent an exodus, should focus more on those who are not as optimistic about the state’s direction, including many in the middle class facing steep housing costs and people from areas of the state facing the greatest economic challenges."

The study found that roughly 23 percent of Californians were seriously considering leaving the state. In San Diego, that number fell to 17 percent, but in places like Northern California north of the Bay Area, it ballooned to 37 percent.

"This poll shows that there are folks there who don't feel like they're part of the economic expansion, don't feel like they're part of the direction in which California is moving," Kousser said.

Jo-Anna Semingson, an Oceanside native who bought a more affordable home in Temecula, said she's had friends leave for states like Wisconsin and Illinois.

"I've heard a lot of people talking about leaving and, like I said, some people I know have left, so I would have expected there to be more people leaving," said Semington, who said she would not move out of California.

UCSD's study added that there was also no evidence of a "millionaire flight" from California, sparked after the departure of a handful of high-profile millionaires from the state, and the most affluent Californians are actually the group most satisfied with the direction of the state and likely to stay.

On the moving front, while the number of younger Americans moving into California remains elevated through 2019, the combination of some decline and those moving out has driven down the number of younger Americans moving to the Golden State overall.

The number of older Americans moving into California has fallen since 2014 and recently turned negative due to more elderly residents leaving. Areas like Texas and Washington were at the top of the list for younger people moving from the state, while areas like Nevada and Arizona were popular among older Californians.

The study did however see an increase in residents leaving San Francisco, increasing from 16 percent to 18 percent since 2015, and remained at that level in 2020. But of those leaving San Francisco, about two-thirds stayed in the 11-county Bay Area, while 80 percent stayed in California. Counties in the Sierra Nevadas and other northern parts of the state saw jumps in former Bay Area residents, with 50 percent and in some cases doubled in 2020 compared to 2019.

"The number of those moving out of California to other states has trended up since 2012, but that is not uncommon and is similar to levels last seen in the mid-2000s. During that period, those moving into California — both from other states and other countries — has seen few changes," the study stated.

It's hard to justify moving out of California has to do with the state's finances as well, according to the study. California's share of venture capital dollars increased from one-third in 1995 to more than half throughout the 2010s. In the first quarter of 2021, the study found that California's share of venture capital funding in the U.S. stood at about 48 percent and that Florida and Texas put together were only a 15th of that.

UCSD's analysis consisting of studies conducted by scholars at UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego, as well as Cornell University and Stanford University. The study also uses other data from public opinion data, the U.S. Census, consumer credit histories, homeownership rates, venture capital investments, and information from the Franchise Tax Board.