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Where Are Californians Moving To?

More than ever, Californians are leaving their once-paradise and moving to five other metropolises across the country. While puzzling for many researchers, the answers come down to variables concerning income and home affordability - among several other factors.

Economic opportunities seem to be shifting in California as more and more workers are spending more time commuting. Transportation statistics in the United States show that four California cities are among the top ten city areas with the highest rate of people who have to travel more than 90 minutes to work.

In addition to commuting, affordable housing is a concern for many Californians who are opting to relocate.

Based on our 2021 Migration Data Study, the following statistics further speak to the migration from California:

  • In 2021, California was the second-highest outbound state (66% of moves in California were outbound)
  • California has been in the top 10 outbound states for the last 5 years
  • Los Angeles was the 5th top outbound city (out of the entire country)

The question remains, however: where are the Californians going?

Where Are Californians Moving To?

The Top Five Cities That Californians Are Moving To

Many Californians from big cities like San Francisco, San Jose, and San Diego are opting for places that align with their work, quality of life, and economic needs more. These five cities that Californians choose to move to offer a better quality of life, better cost of housing, and a sense of community.

Here are the top five cities that Californians are moving to:

  • Dallas, TX
  • Austin, TX
  • Seattle, WA
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Houston, TX

Dallas, Texas

Of the cities in this list, three reside in Texas - which makes it a popular destination. Texan cities are plentiful in bursting nightlife, surface area for parking and homesteads, and a lesser cost of living than most Californian cities. Dallas, a North Texas city, is lively, much like the Bay Area, with hundreds of thousands of acres of land.

Dallas is of particular note as it is home to several Fortune 500 companies like JC Penney and Exxon Mobil. The job market is ideal in Dallas, as it has a high amount of both blue- and white-collar work and existing single-family homes to choose from. The average cost of a 3,500-square-foot, four-bedroom home in Dallas is around $650,000, which may be affordable for those being paid a living wage. 

Additionally, Dallas has many academic opportunities and a strong sense of community. Lower housing costs and a living wage are some strong allures of Dallas, Texas, as well. 

Austin, Texas

Austin is a common destination for households leaving California. With its affordable houses, Austin remains one of the best options for Bay Area Californians who wish to leave the Bay Area. One of the benefits of Austin lies in the arts and music scene - which mirrors that of San Francisco. Austin is notoriously for these music festivals:

  • Austin Area Jazz Festival
  • Austin City Limits Music Festival
  • Austin Celtic Festival
  • Austin PRIDE
  • Austin Reggae Festival

In addition, Austin is famous for its yearly Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, a festival that includes music, shopping, activities for the whole family, and local cuisine. Artists, chefs, and crafters from all over Austin can attend and sign up to sell their wares at this festival yearly.

These events hold the locals dear and call out to creatives from all over the country - including many Californians yearning to experience the diverse culture.

Seattle, Washington

Coastal cities are incredibly popular to moving Californians, but Seattle is ideal for many. Seattle may make many Californians feel right at home with coastal cities similar to Santa Monica and Santa Clarita. 

Seattle calls out to nature-lovers and city-lovers alike. As a bustling city, Seattle is home to many nature locations within Washington state. Goldmyer Hotsprings and Evans Creek Preserve are only two of dozens of nature locations that will appeal to all personalities in Seattle.

Combined with the often rainy weather and lush greenery that Seattle provides, many Californians might find themselves looking to escape the sometimes too-dry climate of California. While housing prices may be a little high, climate and political stances may be the reason for Californians’ mass exodus.

Phoenix, Arizona

Another popular destination is Phoenix, Arizona. While the climate in Phoenix might be a touch similar to that of many California cities, it does boast more affordable housing, more varied economic opportunities, and better quality of life. 

The cost of living is cheaper in Phoenix, and the surface area is broad. More parking space and a less dense population are only two draws to Phoenix.

In addition, the winters in Phoenix are much milder than in some California cities, and this may cause many Californians to migrate to warmer temperatures. The outdoor life is spectacular, and Phoenix is a top contender for national parks and scenic views.

Houston, Texas

The largest city in Texas, Houston is similar to San Francisco and San Jose. Many factors contribute to why many Californians seek out Houston as their home city. Some include a rich and diverse population, a low cost of living, and a large pool of jobs available. Not only does Houston provide much of Californian needs, but they also sometimes do it better.

For example, Houston beats California in affordable housing opportunities and offers a more livable wage on average. Coupled with the fact that Houston is a bustling city full of things to do and see - much like many Californian cities - Houston offers much of the same benefits of California without costing nearly as much to thrive. 

Why Are Californians Going To These Cities?

While some move for political reasons, others look for a less densely populated area to feel safer. With the ongoing global pandemic, more people value their space over everything else, which causes plenty of Californians to uproot and move across the country.

Quality of Life Changes

According to NBC Bay Area, every year 82,000 Californians leave behind their roots and move to Texas - a much larger state with more cities, surface area, and different values. Many of the reasons include quality of life changes, but the driving factor is the cost of living. Large California cities are notoriously expensive, like Santa Monica, Santa Clara, and the whole Bay Area.

Compared to California, the cost of living in Texas is significantly lower. This means more money in ex-Californian pockets and more of a well-rounded life. Earning more and spending less will mean a higher quality of life and enable those who move from California to Texas to have a higher standard of health, wellness, and overall satisfaction.

Affordable Housing & Income Taxes

One of the driving factors encouraging many Californians to move to new states is the affordability of homes. Housing affordability is a chronic issue plaguing the United States but tends to be a sore spot for many Californians.

On average, Texan homes cost less than half of those in California - an incentive for those looking to be homeowners to migrate. The New York Times reports that the average home price in Texas is around $350,000, whereas the average single-family home in California ranks at nearly $820,000.

Personal income taxes and other state taxes are a big drawback to many residents thinking about making the change. Income taxes are harder to accommodate in California as residents must pay state taxes and a special sales tax. While there are credits and deductions for many situations, some residents find that their taxes become lower in other states.

California’s Average Annual Population Growth Rate is Declining

California is notorious for being seen as the poster child of a thriving state. Complete with a diverse population, a booming art and music scene, and plenty of jobs, it’s hard to believe that California’s population has slowly been dwindling over the last few years.

The population has seen a decrease since the early 2000s and has seen a steady outflow of Californians since 2019. While California does see an increase in its population, it’s simply not enough to keep up with those who have decided that the state does not fit their needs.

The discrepancy is nearly 175,000 people every year. These Californians are likely moving to one of the five cities listed above. In some ways, California cannot keep up with the needs of its population.

While many Californians may miss Santa Clarita, Santa Monica, San Mateo, and Orange County, they may use the opportunity to have less expensive housing than the national average by moving out of California.

If you’re a Californian considering your options, needs, and desires for your plans, examine the top five cities listed here and see if any of the reasons listed meet your needs. Whether politically, financially, or health-related motivations strike your fancy, it may be time to start planning a cross-country move to somewhere more reliable to you.

You could be one of the other 650,000 ex-Californians, reported by the U.S. Census Bureau, leaving the state every year.