When lawyer and writer RMS Thornton (34) was asked why he left Carmel, Calif., for to Tempe, Ariz., he gave a peculiar analogy.
“I’ve always considered California to be like that really stereotypical hot girl in high school. She knows she’s pretty, so she thinks she can get away with treating her peers awfully and they will just keep pandering to her, buying her presents, giving her praise. However, being aesthetically stunning can only get you so far. Eventually, your peers will start to realize that enough is enough.”
This simile from Thornton, while humorous, accurately sums up several of California's issues.
Firstly, cost of living in California is extremely high, and The Golden State's pleasant climate and rich history simply no longer compensate for the baggage that the state has carried with it for years: insecurity, high taxes, low quality of life, a homelessness crisis, streets flooded with drugs and extreme bureaucracy.
These increasingly evident problems are responsible for the growing exodus of residents. These issues present a barrier for potential new arrivals and ultimately reveal a demographic winter that is slowly taking hold.
In fact, the demographic crisis has already arrived. In 2021, California lost one seat in the United States Congress, while Republican-governed Texas and Florida gained two and one, respectively. Now, demographic estimates are even more stark: California could lose up to a tenth of its congressional representation by 2030. That is, 5 of its 52 seats.
And it could be worse.
Four in 10 Californians want to leave the state
The vast majority of California residents, seven in 10, are proud that their state has become the progressive bastion of the United States along with New York. They celebrate “inclusivity,” their woke policies and their lax penal system.
However, despite taking pride in their state, residents are not happy overall. In fact, four in 10 are considering a move to another region, according to a recent survey by Strategies 360 in partnership with the Los Angeles Times.
In the end, behind all the progressive pride, only 29% of Californians said they were satisfied with the economy, a drop of 12 percentage points from the 41% figure at the beginning of 2020.
Additionally, nearly half of those surveyed said they either struggle to make ends meet or struggle to save money and pay for unexpected expenses.
The survey shows a clear trend in The Golden State: from April 2020 to July 2022, California said goodbye to 700,000 more people than it welcomed in. This clear demographic decline may continue as residents, although proud, feel they cannot prosper in the state where they grew up.
Texas and Florida: refuge for Californians
The demographic crisis in California is not a new phenomenon that came about with the pandemic. On the contrary, it has been brewing since the early 2000s, as can be read in an entry from PODS, specialized in the real estate market.
"So why are so many people leaving California?" the article asks. To put it plainly, the number one reason is that California is expensive. The state consistently ranks among the top five most expensive states in the country. According to Zillow, between 2015 and 2022, the average home value increased 92%, nearly doubling. Increasingly high costs of living, housing, and transportation coupled with an increase in crime, pollution, and congestion has caused many people to relocate to more affordable cities and states.
The state that receives the most Californians is not a progressive state like New York; rather it is one of the nation's most conservative: Texas. The Lone Star State has a 37% lower cost of living than California; a median household income of $67,300, 20% less than The Golden State; a median home value of $298,300, 59% less than its West Coast counterpart; and an average rental price per bedroom of $1,250, 44% less than in California.
In addition to the cost of living being noticeably lower and the quality of life improving as well, another big reason Californians embrace Texas is because there is no state income tax.
In this vain, it is not only residents leave California, but also businesses.
A 2022 report from the Hoover Institute found that some 352 companies left California and moved their headquarters to another state between 2018 and 2022. The pattern mirrors that of residents. High taxes, expensive rent and bureaucracy scare away potential investors and also lead to a flight of capital.
The state that welcomes the second most former Californians is none other than Florida, perhaps the most thriving state in the entire union in recent years under the leadership of Ron DeSantis.
While the real estate market in The Sunshine State has also seen its value increase since 2016, and Floridians earn less than Californians annually, the cost of living is much lower in Florida, and housing prices are still 50% lower than The Golden State.
Furthermore, the big difference between Florida and California is not simply financial. Civic life is drastically different in both states. Florida is one of the freest states in the union. During the pandemic, while California imposed vaccine mandates, masks and lockdowns, Republican DeSantis opened the economy and let people freely decide what to do with their bodies in terms of health.
Can immigrants save the birth rate crisis?
The United States is experiencing one of the worst border crises in its history. Recently, Eagle Pass, Texas, a town about 29,000 inhabitants, had to declare a state of emergency because a wave of 11,000 migrants entered the city in the span of just two weeks.
There are so many migrants crossing the border that, within Texas, a housing development known as Colony Ridge was established, which is estimated to house between 50,000 and 75,000 illegal migrants.
The migration phenomenon has even seeped outside of border regions. New York City is completely overrun with illegal immigrants. Its Democratic authorities, who had declared it a sanctuary city, are already asking please that no more immigrants arrive from the border.
California, a border state, is surely suffering from a similar problem with immigration… Or is it?
According to a report from The New York Times, The Golden State, in fact, is not suffering from the immigration crisis like other border states such as Texas or Arizona. The reason is because California is no longer as attractive to immigrants as it once was.
A major reason why California has avoided a crisis is that the state no longer attracts as many migrants as it did decades ago, the report indicates. Starting in the 1990s, the state's high cost of living, coupled with a plethora of job opportunities in the Sun Belt and other regions in the country, led migrants to seek other locations.
What has become a nightmare for Texas and New York, which no longer want anything to do with receiving migrants through their own authorities, could be a solution for California. Migratory growth could actually alleviate another of California's great deficits: a birth rate crisis.
According to a study by the Public Policy Institute of California, The Golden State's birth rate has plummeted.
California's birth rate, which records births per 1,000 residents, is at its lowest level in more than a century, with the outright number of births falling from a 1992 high of 613,000 to 420,000 in 2021.
The study explains several of the reasons, among them, that today young women in California have fewer opportunities to marry than 20 years ago and that the increase in birth rates, such as that recorded in the 1980s, coincided with the migratory influx that today has fallen drastically.
The New York Times explains another factor: nowadays Americans, especially Californians, want to have children at later ages.
Demographers say that more recent generations have waited longer to have families, as would-be parents faced rising costs of living and rising levels of education. The average age of a new parent in California rose to 31 in 2019, up from 28 in 2010, the NYT reported.
This stark reality will be very difficult to change, even with policies designed to support families, something that does not seem to be a priority for California's progressive authorities.
So, as the streets become more unsafe, filled with drugs and homeless encampments, residents flee to states with better opportunities and stronger economies. Those who stay, on the other hand, fight to survive and do not plan their lives around building families and having children. The result, as studies estimate: a hostile demographic winter that will reduce California's representation in Congress.