Some 62,270 people have died of Covid-19 in California. Immigration policies that were already restrictive became even more so amid global lockdowns, resulting in what state officials estimated was a loss of 100,000 residents and roughly 53,000 fewer international students.
To be sure, migration to other states is a significant part of the story, as well. But as an analysis of census data by the Public Policy Institute of California found, the people who headed for another state largely haven’t been the wealthy, educated tech workers whose departures for Miami or Austin have been the cause of much hand-wringing.
Rather, the people moving into California tend to be more educated and wealthier than the people leaving, according to the analysis: From 2015 to 2019, California gained 74,500 working-age adults with a bachelor’s degree or more — and lost 465,500 working-age adults with less than a bachelor’s degree. Over the past decade, California actually gained almost 114,000 high-income (defined as making more than $138,750 a year) working-age adults.
And while some former Californians have loudly proclaimed that they’re taking their families and dollars elsewhere out of distaste for the state’s liberal politics, almost half of the adults who left California in the 2010s said they left primarily for jobs, and nearly a quarter said their primary reason for leaving was housing.
Of course, a combination of many factors influence any given family’s decisions. And the net losses to other states should serve as a warning, experts say.
But determining what kind of action these signals should prompt is, as always, the challenge.
Which raises the eternal — if increasingly urgent — question: If California’s population is contracting because thousands of people can’t afford to live here, then what kind of communities will be left? Who is California for?