Why are people leaving California ?

The Golden State is one of the icons of the United States. This brilliant location is home to San Francisco, Hollywood, and countless other staples of American pop culture.

If that’s the case…why are so many people leaving California entirely?

You don’t even have to be a native Californian to know about the rising rates in outbound moves. Recent studies have shown California to see a consistent population drain over the past several years. More significantly, these rates show very little sign of slowing.

Have you thought about moving to California? Moving out, perhaps? We’re going to break down why this state has slowly but surely lost its appeal.

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Cost of Living is Astronomically High

Why are people leaving California? We’re going to start off with perhaps the best-known reason why California is seeing such a consistent population loss: cost-of-living. This state has never been a cheap place to live, but it’s only gotten more expensive with the time.

California knocks it out of the park when it comes to mounting costs. While this state is popular for start-ups in the technology and entertainment industry, mass layoffs have sent people packing. The Bay Area is a financial drain on most of its residents and even rural areas are difficult to live in. San Francisco is legendary for being in top lists for the most expensive place to rent or buy a home.

San Diego, Santa Clara, and Los Angeles are also very pricey. While it’s easy to blame COVID-19 for the number of people leaving, the fact of the matter is quite different. Major cities have been losing their appeal over the past several years: the pandemic has only sped up the inevitable.

Education is Becoming Harder to Achieve

When even educated and well-paid residents are struggling to live in California, it’s not hard to see why people leave. California is home to multiple top universities, but it’s simply too expensive to stick around for a degree.

In-state tuition is cheaper than out-of-state tuition. Unfortunately, California is just too expensive to live in-state. The average four-year degree in California ranges between $8,000 to $10,000 a year. When you take into account cost-of-living, transportation, and state taxes, however…these costs mount up very quickly.

More contagious COVID-19 variants like omicron will continue to make in-person education a difficult endeavor, even for prime locations like UC Berkeley. Remote learning options mean in-person universities and dorms are a less appealing choice for today’s students.

Californian State Taxes are Unsustainable

Are you a small business owner looking to cut costs? Do you rent a home and wish you could pay a little less in taxes? California has sent several demographics packing for tax-related reasons.

We’ll explore more specific demographics below, but for now, let’s take a look at some hard numbers. California taxes range from just 1% to as high as 12%. Depending on your marital status and whether or not you have kids, these figures can balloon out of control.

Several states have no income tax requirements, such as South Dakota, Nevada, Washington, Texas, and Tennessee. Comparatively, California has the most expensive income tax rate out of all the states and territories in the United States.

Remote Work Makes it Easier to Move

Why stick around in a city that’s draining your wallet faster by the minute? Remote work has made it easier to live a more affordable life without sacrificing a career or education.

There is a slew of compatible cities for remote workers who want to enjoy a compelling nightlife without financial regret. Common details movers will take into account when choosing a new city or town to move to include:

  • Walkability score
  • Grocery store proximity
  • Internet costs
  • Rent costs
  • Coworking spaces (especially for hybrid models)

Climate Change Has Hit California Hard

It’s no mystery that wildfires have been ravaging California. While climate change can’t be outrun with a simple move, it’s possible to delay the inevitable by seeking out a less disaster-prone state.

California also sees a high rate of earthquakes and extreme heat waves.

Who is Mainly Leaving California?

Not only does California see a lot of people leaving, but the state also sees few people visiting. It’s an unsustainable metric that is only bound to get worse over the course of the decade.

The Bay Area sees the highest number of outbound moves, followed closely by the Greater Sacramento Area and Central Sierra. Families with dependents are moving at some of the highest rates due to the sheer costs needed to raise children or take care of the elderly.

California is seeing a reduced foreign student population, as well. Considering many countries around the world offer affordable or free education, it’s understandable why foreign students would find the Golden State unappealing.

Where are People Moving to From California?

Logic dictates that Californian residents will seek out states that are financially disparate from their old stomping grounds. While some movers still crave hot weather and plenty of entertainment, cultural differences are a (literally) small price to pay.


This is the most popular moving choice for former Californians. Texas has a similar climate to the Golden State, offering consistently hot weather on a regular basis.

Fortunately, it has no income tax rate and a somewhat lower cost of living.


There’s a lot of appeals nestled in Nevada for the former Californian. The incredible sights, warm weather, and rich culture are a hole-in-one.

The lower cost-of-living and competitive job market make the switch relatively easy.


Just a hop skip away, Washington is a great choice for former Californians. While the climate is a little cooler than they’re used to, there are a plethora of benefits waiting to be enjoyed.

Washington has no state income tax, plenty of entertainment venues, and close proximity to Canada for travelers. It also ranks higher on walkability and cycling friendliness for major cities such as Seattle, Spokane, and Tacoma.


Sunny Florida is nearly as iconic as California. When you think of beaches and endless days of agreeable weather, you think of the Sunshine State.

Florida has no state income tax and no inheritance tax, making it instantly more affordable for many. Living outside the major cities will also help keep costs low, but keep in mind you’ll still need a car. Florida ranks pretty low on the walkability meter.


This state is a sleeper hit compared to the other entries on our list. While it’s best known for its farms and rolling hills, the sleepy lifestyle is quite appealing to former Californians.

Cross-Compatible Reasons

California is unique in several regards, but there are some cross-compatible reasons why people are leaving. The pandemic is just one of many factors that have sped along with country-wide trends.

Moving Trends Have Gone Down

Anywhere between 10% to 25% of Americans will move within their state or out of their state. While the pandemic has slowed these figures down, it’s not for lack of wanting.

The most common reasons people move involve education, family changes, and cost-of-living. Moving is less safe than it used to be due to COVID-19, but many movers still need to pack their bags for greener pastures. This tense tug-of-war is likely going to continue for a few more years.

There is a Rise in the General Cost-Of-Living

Cost-of-living has been steadily rising throughout the country. California may be the most expensive state, but every state has seen a rise in rent and mortgage.

The United States Has an Aging Population

The United States is facing down a rapidly aging population. Did you know there will be more elderly adults than children in just a decade and a half?

This factor will have a significant impact on the job market, which is already highly volatile in California due to mass layoffs.


California isn’t the top dog it used to be. Despite the state’s still-pervasive cultural appeal and historical significance, living there is too much work for too little payoff.

Several demographics are moving out of California because of the mounting cost of living, few job opportunities, and incompatible educational options. While the biggest exodus is being led by families with dependents, the state is also seeing a lack of foreign students.

If you’re considering moving out of California, make sure to write down your most important reasons and stick close to them. While no single state will be the cure-all to your problems, moving now can save you some serious headaches down the road. Nevada, Washington, and Texas are very popular options for former Californian residents.

Budgeting your move as soon as possible will give you the ability to plan for curveballs in today’s unstable landscape.

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