An exodus sparked by high taxes, coronavirus lockdowns, and regulations has driven California’s population growth rate to a record low, which is projected to cost the state a seat in Congress and an electoral vote.
“This is a real sea change in California, which used to be this state of pretty robust population growth,” said Hans Johnson, a demographer at the Public Policy Institute of California, regarding the net migration loss, which has now occurred three years in a row. “It hasn’t been for some time now. But it’s now gotten to the point where the state is essentially not growing population-wise at all.”
According to a population estimate this week, 135,600 more people fled the Golden State than moved there, which marks only the 12th time since 1900 that the state saw a net migration loss. It is the third-largest drop recorded.
Johnson added that the population decrease could cause the state to lose a seat in Congress as well as an Electoral College vote for the first time. The state did not gain any seats following the 2010 census, which was also a first.
Residents have cited high taxes as a main driver of the decision to leave.
“I never wanted to leave California,” San Francisco real estate broker Scott Fuller said about his departure from the state after living there since 1983. “It’s the most beautiful state with the best climate. I think the tipping point was continued tax increases and even more proposed tax increases. … I have absolutely no regrets.”
Businesses have been fleeing California as well, and just recently, it was learned that tech giants Elon Musk and Larry Ellison were moving their companies, Tesla and Oracle, to more business-friendly states and taking tens of thousands of jobs with them.
Californians have also expressed increased frustration with state and local governments over strict coronavirus lockdowns, evidenced by large protests across the state and a recall effort aimed at removing Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom from office that has gained enough steam to cause his team concern.
The coronavirus pandemic has also forced many in California to work from home, which makes living close to work less important and a potential move easier to commit to, especially when the same salary can be earned in a less expensive state.
“It’s really sped up the out-migration quite a bit,” Fuller said about the shift to remote employment. “People have options now, and you pair that with people’s frustration on several different levels — I don’t see it changing.”