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Why Do People Leave California?

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Formerly an economics and humanities student at UCLA, Oe Kaori is now an intern for the United Nations.


Living in California was Beautiful, Not so Much Anymore

As beautiful as the state can be, I couldn’t stay there anymore. I enjoyed my time at UCLA all the while enjoying the weather. By my fourth semester I had to leave to finish my education elsewhere. I am by no means well off or wealthy, due to the fact my poor parents moved back to Yokohama. Their salaries could barely afford my education here. But it goes deeper than that. California is way too expensive. Now I see why people leave for more greener pastures such as Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. The atmosphere in those southern states are vastly different. By the way that’s a whole other topic I want to vent about. I didn’t enjoy my visit to Oklahoma.

I hopped onto the net as usual to get each side of the story as to why California became the way it is now. Only the mega rich or tech heads can live there.

The Housing Isn't Great

California is having a housing crisis, as its cities compete to lure people, job creators, and tax revenue away from other states. But there is also another — and perhaps more troubling — factor behind this migration: California is becoming too expensive to live in.

Not long ago, a move to California meant a move to California. High taxes, regulations, and housing costs didn’t apply. California was seen as a playground for the wealthy, and the place with the least to offer people who didn’t make their fortunes there. That’s why Silicon Valley tech workers, who rarely require a second car, bought their two-bedroom houses in Palo Alto for $1 million. But those days are over.

“That paradigm has changed,” says demographer Wendell Cox, a leading expert on the California economy. “People say, ‘I’m leaving the Bay Area, but I can’t afford a home in Santa Clara. Can I buy a fixer-upper for $200,000?’”

A recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California shows that Californians are feeling the squeeze of skyrocketing rents and housing costs. The PPIC’s survey, released last month, shows that just over half of California residents now believe it is too expensive to live here, and that 62 percent of those surveyed who earn less than $50,000 a year say they can’t afford a median-priced home. This represents a 13-point increase since 2016. Even wealthier Californians say they’re struggling. The survey found that 70 percent of residents with an annual income of $100,000 or more say they can’t afford to buy a median-priced home.

The problem has only grown more pronounced over the past few years. As the PPIC notes, the cost of owning a median-priced home here is now at least 50 percent higher than in comparable housing markets in the Northeast and Midwest. The average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment has grown by 10 percent since 2016. In fact, Californians are paying far more to live in their homes than the rest of the country. While the average renter pays $1,889 a month, Californians pay $3,404.

No wonder Californians are leaving in droves. More than 43,000 people — almost a 1 percent increase — have left California for Texas in just the first three months of 2018. “There’s been a bigger wave of outmigration to Texas than in years past,” Cox notes.

Migrating to Other States from California

The relocation of state workers to Texas isn’t just a recent trend. Cox says that between 2010 and 2016, the average number of state workers leaving California for other states was around 23,000. “That’s about one-third the size of the population of Chico,” says Cox, referring to California’s fifth-most-populous city.

Predictably, these high prices in California are making the state less attractive to entrepreneurs and high-skilled workers. As one survey showed, 44 percent of millennials believe the state is on the wrong track. The issue isn’t going to go away on its own.

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What is the Legislature going to do about it? Over the years, California has made a show of doing more to address the issue of affordable housing, especially with regard to low-income renters and low-income homeowners. Last year, for example, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a package of bills that aimed to increase the supply of affordable housing. They included a tax on vacant properties and a $4 billion bond to finance low-income housing.

Unfortunately, this year’s “June Revise” version of the state budget didn’t include the funding needed to pay for these bills.

This failure has put the state’s affordable housing problem in the national spotlight. Cox says it “is among the most important issues facing the state. If people are leaving the state, it’s because they can’t afford to live here.” And the national media has taken notice.

“The topic has received attention on a national level,” says Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute. “Certainly that’s helped the housing affordability problem in the state become more prominent.”

The debate over California’s affordable housing situation is more political than practical. It’s easy for California politicians to gripe about the federal government’s inability to address this crisis. But the reality is that state lawmakers have the ability to fix the problem — and they are failing to do

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Oe Kaori


Oe Kaori (author) from Yokohama Japan on October 21, 2020:

I wish I could becsuse it was very nice but I moving back to Japan

Danny from India on October 21, 2020:

Yes, the rents are exorbitant. Maybe work out somewhere else and then after saving enough come back to take a place if it's too beautiful to miss.

Oe Kaori (author) from Yokohama Japan on October 20, 2020:

My rent was in shared housing. My rent was in this range but I had to split my housing cost with 3 other people. It's just too expensive. It's almost as expensive as Tokyo.

Kalpana Iyer from India on October 20, 2020:

Wow. $3,404. That's a lot of rent. It is a given that prices will be sky high if there are a lot of rich people around. A reason why Switzerland is so expensive.

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