Data Reveals California’s Exodus Is Getting Worse

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: Jun 30, 2024

California’s ongoing exodus seems to be getting worse. Various new reports have surfaced analyzing this continuous problem in the Golden State, as many Californians have decided to move out and find a new home in a more affordable state.

New data compiled by the relocation tech company moveBuddha has suggested that this exodus may continue to get worse in the next few years.

California’s Ongoing Exodus

Locals of California have started to move out of the state to start over in more affordable areas of the United States. This migration movement took off during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A view of a San Francisco street with cars parked seen in the daytime.

Source: Antonio Gabola/Unsplash

While some recent data has suggested that this exodus may be cooling down, new data from moveBuddha indicates the exact opposite.


The Gold Rush Brought People to California

The gold rush in the 1800s brought hundreds of thousands of people to California from various states in search of wealth.

Bars of gold.

Jingming Pan/Unsplash

However, a couple of centuries later, people have to go to California already wealthy in order to be able to stay there. If not, then they will struggle to afford to live and will likely end up moving elsewhere.

800,000 Residents Are Leaving California

In 2022, California was able to gain 475,803 residents. While this number might sound good, more than double this amount ended up leaving in the same year, at 817,669.

A street in California at sunset with cars parked on either side of the road. The Hollywood sign is in the background.

Steven Pahel/Unsplash

This is an overall net loss of 341,866. Since then, there has been an ongoing trend of people leaving the Golden State in favor of living somewhere cheaper.

Population Predictions Have Gone Down

In 2000, California’s population was at 34 million and was only continuing to grow. Due to the growing population, predictions were made as to what the population would look like over the next few decades.

A neon pink arrow pointing down against a black background.

Ussama Azam/Unsplash

It was predicted that the population would be at 45 million in 2020 and 60 million by 2040. However, the sad reality is that California had a peak of 39.5 million in 2020 and was at just over 38.9 million in March 2023.

Moving From California

According to moveBuddha, a large amount of people have used their platform to find relocation routes from California.

A man taping up a brown moving box.

Source: Ketut Subiyanto/Pexels

Therefore, many people have looked up routes to move from various cities in the Golden State. Five different routes from California ended up in the top ten most popular routes searched, as seen in this report.


From Los Angeles to New York

The most popular relocation search on moveBuddha as a whole was from Los Angeles to New York. Data has also shown that many Los Angeles locals have used moveBuddha to find relocation routes to move elsewhere in the country, such as Dallas or Las Vegas.

An aerial photo of Los Angeles, California seen at night.

Source: Henning Witzel/Unsplash

As Los Angeles has millions of people living in its city limits, it’s not too much of a surprise to see this city has the most exit searches on moveBuddha.


People Fleeing San Francisco

However, San Francisco searches also showed up quite a lot in this data. In fact, when looking at per capita, San Francisco exit routes ranked ahead of Los Angeles.

A view of the Golden Gate Bridge seen over water in the daytime.

Source: Ragnar Vorel/Unsplash

Other California cities also ranked high on this list, most notably San Jose. Many people looked up exit routes from San Jose to Seattle and Austin.


California Is the Second Most Expensive State

The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center looked into how expensive it is to live in each state based on the price of groceries, housing, utilities, transportation and health.

The San Francisco Bridge across water.

Maarten van den Heuvel/Unsplash

California is the second most expensive state to live in. The most expensive is Hawaii, with others in the top five including the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and Alaska.


Other States Are a Lot Cheaper

While those states are rather expensive and anyone thinking of moving might want to avoid them if they are on a budget, other states are a lot cheaper to live in all-round.

A town in West Virginia with buildings and various greenery.

Kevin Ku/Unsplash

The cheapest state to live in is West Virginia. Others in the top 5 cheapest states to live in include Oklahoma, Kansas, Alabama, and Mississippi.


A Busy Summer Moving Season?

Many people choose to move in the summer for a variety of reasons. According to this moveBuddha data, this upcoming season could see quite a lot of people moving out of California and to another state.

A U-haul moving truck seen on the road in the daytime.

Source: Erik Mclean/Unsplash

If this mass migration isn’t seen this summer, then the near future could see the California population drop once again, if this data pans out to be true.


The Cost of Moving Out of Los Angeles

Luckily, moveBuddha analyzed moving out of California — and particularly Los Angeles — this summer for locals.

Downtown Los Angeles buildings seen behind palm trees during sunset.

Source: Cedric Letsch/Unsplash

“Since California is a top move-out state and Los Angeles is its biggest city, moving costs can soar, especially in the summer when moving trucks all head in the same direction. With a professional moving truck, the trek east will cost movers between $2,056 and $10,356, depending on the size of their move and its timing,” the company stated.


Where Californians Are Moving

According to the latest data from moveBuddha, Californians are mainly looking to locate to other major cities in the United States, such as Dallas, Seattle, New York, Las Vegas, and Austin.

A close-up of the Welcome to Las Vegas sign seen in the daytime.

Source: Grant Cai/Unsplash

However, other new studies have shown that the South and Southeast parts of the country have become desirable locations for many moving out of California.


New Popular States

As a result, many areas in the Southeast and in the Appalachian states have seen a huge migration movement in recent years and months.

A bird’s eye view of downtown Charlotte, North Carolina.

Source: Daniel Weiss/Unsplash

Now, some of the most popular states to move to include North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, and Florida.


Why People Are Leaving California

For years now, many regular Americans have chosen to leave California for a variety of reasons. However, one of the biggest factors for this move has to do with the high cost of living seen up and down the coast.

An aerial view of a California neighborhood seen with many streets and houses.

Source: Paul Hanaoka/Unsplash

For many long-time natives of California, the state has simply become too expensive. Housing and rent have become astronomical in price.


Reasons Why People Are Leaving California

Including the high cost of living, there are plenty of other reasons why Californians have decided to leave the Golden State in favor of living elsewhere.

A beach in California with people and palm trees on.

Gustavo Zambelli/Unsplash

This includes high taxes, high bills, lack of employment opportunities, the ability to work from home, tougher business regulations, and too much traffic.


Increase in Crime

It’s not just price increases that are driving people out of California, as crime, pollution, and congestion are other issues that have risen over the last few years.

Yellow tape with "Do not cross police" in black.

David von Diemar/Unsplash

As people would rather live in areas that have low crime rates, low pollution levels, and little to no congestion, these are giving people further reason to leave the Golden State.


Businesses Are Moving Out of California

Businesses are also on their way out of California in favor of basing their headquarters elsewhere. Even companies worth millions, if not billions, are leaving because they cannot cope with the rising costs and would rather live in a cheaper state where business can remain the same, or possibly flourish.

A street in California with the sun rising.

Robert Bye/Unsplash

Between 2018 and 2022, 352 businesses left California in favor of somewhere else, due to high rent, high taxes, high cost of living for employees, and red tape.


Underlying Factors Need To Be Addressed

Due to there being so many reasons why people are leaving California, the underlying issues need to be addressed to not only help gravitate people towards the Golden State, but also to ensure those already living there remain.

A busy street in California with cars parked on either side and others driving down it.

Lala Miklós/Unsplash

This is especially as the number of people leaving will have significant effects on the housing market, workforce availability, and tax revenues.


Expensive, Crowded Cities

Some of the most populous cities in California have seen the biggest population movements in recent years. Many have explained that it’s too expensive to live in places like San Francisco and Los Angeles.

An aerial view of a lit-up Los Angeles seen at night.

Source: Venti Views/Unsplash

However, others who have left have noted how crowded these cities have become, which has only made traffic even worse.


California House Prices Have Broken a Depressing Record

California house prices have gotten so high that they have broken a depressing record. The average house price in California is now at $900,000.

A house in California with a black car parked on the drive.

Anatolii Nesterov/Unsplash

As most people cannot afford this, they are having to try and downsize or leave California entirely in favor of a state that offers them much more for their money.


California Has a Homelessness Crisis

Due to how expensive it is to live there, California is facing one of the worst homelessness crises across the whole of the US.

A line of homeless people sitting on the pavement.


Governor Gavin Newsom has committed to building tiny homes for the homeless under a $1 billion plan. However, not a single person has been placed into one of these homes, and many are yet to be built.


The Middle Class in California

The founder of the popular Facebook group “Leaving California”, Terry Gilliam, recently opened up about how many middle-class people have decided to leave the Golden State.

A car seen parked outside a home by a palm tree in Santa Clara, California.

Source: Jose Rago/Unsplash

“I think that that’s what California’s been doing for the last many years, is eliminating the middle class, and Governor Newsom loves to brag about how California’s economy is top five in the world, and then he came out bragging about how there’s now more Fortune 500 companies based in California than anywhere else in the country,” Gilliam explained. “But that’s for the wealthy, and in reality, the middle class is what’s suffering in California, and that’s why they’re leaving.”


A Wealthy State With Poverty

California is the wealthiest state in the US and is the fifth largest economy in the world. However, it is also the state that has been hit with the highest level of poverty in recent years.

A street in California with houses on either side and hills in the distance.

Paul Hanaoka/Unsplash

All this goes to show is that more needs to be done by the Californian government to make significant changes if they want to make California a livable state that people are happy to call home.