A new UC San Diego survey released on Wednesday has found that California is not experiencing a population exodus, and that any fluctuations match national averages in population shifts.
According to the survey, the number of Californians either looking to move within the state or out of the state has not changed greatly from previous surveys with similar questions in years past, with the number of Californians considering moving out of state actually going down from 28% in 2019 to 26%. All regions except for Northern California and the Central Valley also reported fewer people considering to move away.
While many respondents did say that they were considering a move, with roughly 60% of all Republicans and 40% of all Democrats surveyed that they were thinking of moving either to elsewhere in California or out of state, the number who actually moved was drastically lower, even with an increase of remote work during the pandemic that made moving particularly easier.
The recent data coming from the 2020 US Census, in which California recorded its first population loss ever and lost a Congressional seat, also played a part in the survey. Only 19% of Californians surveyed said that California would be in a better place if the population continues to rise, with most respondents saying that it would be better if the population stayed the same or continued to fall.
Livability was another major topic touched. Only 48% of respondents said that California was one of the best places to live, a decline from 75% three decades ago. However, in contrast, nearly two-thirds of all Californians agreed that the ‘Californian dream’ still works for them and their family, with a near even split among residents on whether California is a better or worse place to live, with 58% of Democrats and only 25% of Republicans favoring better.
However, in the end, the survey concluded that despite the population going down in the most recent Census, many companies leaving the state, hundreds of thousands of wealthy taxpayers leaving in recent years, and other surveys noting continued out of state migration during the pandemic, that no exodus is occurring.
“There has been absolutely no trend toward an exodus,” Wednesday’s survey reported. “In fact, the plans of Californians have remained remarkably consistent over this tumultuous period. In the 2019 Berkeley survey, 24% of Californian registered voters reported that they were giving serious consideration to moving out the state; in this 2021 UC San Diego poll of the state’s adult population, that figure was 23%.The percentage who reported that they were giving some consideration to a move (26% today) or no consideration (at 35%, this was the most frequent response) were also largely unchanged.”
“There was a discernible uptick from 10% up to 15% in the percentage of respondents considering a move to another location within the state, consistent with demographic data over the past year showing declines in the populations of San Francisco and Los Angeles counterbalanced by rises in the populations of counties in the Central Valley and Inland Empire. Yet the most striking finding here is that, in contrast to much of the recent narrative in news coverage, there appears to be no major movement toward Californians overall planning to leave the state.”
No exodus happening according to UC San Diego
The UC San Diego study continued showing the trend of no exodus happening from previous studies, such as a February 2021 UCLA study that found that the increases of migration since 2012 have been at the same levels of a similar migration flux in the mid 2000’s.
“Despite the popular notion of unhappy Californians leaving the state en masse, our robust research shows there is actually no exodus,” explained UC San Diego political science department Chairman Thad Kousser in a statement on Wednesday. “Most residents say that they still believe in the California Dream.”
However, some migration experts remained skeptical of the new survey on Wednesday, pointing out several factors that could show such results.
“A lot of places are still growing due to immigration in California,” noted John Busic, a New York-based migration tracker for a non-profit organization, to the Globe on Wednesday. “And with California opening up again and demanding people go back to offices or work on-location, we’re going to see a lot of people move back. We’re already seeing a lot of tech people move back to the Bay Area and entertainment industry people move back to LA after a year of being able to work remotely.”
“The UC San Diego conclusions seem like they’re holding back somewhat. Yeah, less people are considering a move out, but a lot of people who really wanted to already have, so the numbers are receding of people who want out. But more than that, those numbers of Californians considering to move out are still very high. Yeah, they have gone down, but that’s still a lot of people considering leaving. And enough people left to put a dent in the Census figures. Growth had been slowing for decades, but that was quite a sharp turn to take there.”
“But I do have to admit, for as much as people hate the high tax rate and other things like that in the state, a lot of people still believe that California is best for them. So even if it’s just the weather or scenic views, or the excitement of it, people of all backgrounds still want to live in the state in some capacity.”
“A lot of people still want to leave though, for a wide variety of reasons, so, with a survey like this, you need to see what is right with California and try to build up from there. I don’t know if I buy that there is no exodus happening out there still, but enough people seem to still really like at least some aspects of living there, so there is still a lot to build on.”
Other organizations are expected to release similar cal-exit surveys later this year.