Theres a 10 percent chance your new neighbors — the few that exist — moved to California from another state. My trusty spreadsheet, looking at new Census Bureau data, tells me California had the lowest nationwide share of residents who swapped states in 2017.
And the Golden States well below the 16 percent national average. Bottom line: Relatively speaking, nobodys coming to California. Im sure much of the discussion regarding this annual report of state-to-state migration will hone in on the fact the state had the nations third-largest outmigration — thats arrivals minus departures.
Which translates to 137,895 more exits than newcomers from other states. New York was No. 1, then came Illinois. Largest net inflows were found in Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, Washington state and Texas. Numerous critics of California cite this migration statistic as evidence residents are fleeing a state known for its pricey living and high taxes. These people claim the outflow puts the economy at risk, perhaps leaving it short of workers needed to replace an aging workforce.
But Ill note that this much-debated benchmark of the purported “exodus” from California is just 0.4 percent of the current population and its shrinking. Californias outmigration fell last year by 5,037 — its first dip since 2014.
A deeper peek into the number, however, shows departures are not the problem. Californias proportionally limited flow of newcomers, among other things, presents challenges for bosses who need to fill positions.
For starters, consider Californias 39 million residents, up 0.8 percent in 2017, making make it the unions most populous state. Plus, remember the “net” migration statistic comes from the number of arrivals minus those who exited.
California had 523,131 residents move in from other states in 2017, thats up 8,373 in a year. Only two states attracted more, and both saw fewer newcomers last year: Florida (566,476, down 38,500) and Texas (524,511, down 7,500).
But Californias flow of new residents from other states is a tiny slice of its overall population at just 1.34 percent. That “attraction rate” was the worst in the nation. Yes, the Golden State is not popular. Other states in this measure of disinterest were New York, Michigan, Illinois, and Louisiana.
Just so you know, the most “attractive” state by my math was North Dakota, where 5 percent of its population came from others in the past year. That was followed by followed by Nevada, Idaho, Alaska, and Colorado.
Now, compare Californias poor score for incoming residents with its high rank for departures.
Yes, 661,026 residents moved to other states in 2017, ranking No. 1 for exits. But again, size matters. And people do move: 7.4 million Americans changed states last year. No. 2 for departures was Texas at 467,338 — Californias economic arch-rival and the second-most populous state — then New York (452,580), Florida (447,586), and Illinois (339,435).
Yet when you consider size, California lost just 1.7 percent of its population to other states. Thats the nations third-best “retention rate” by my math and perhaps something to cheer. Michigan was No. 1, Texas No. 2. And after California came Ohio and Wisconsin.
Thus, there is no exodus from California. In fact, were relatively stable. Few depart. Even fewer arrive from other states, a pattern that zaps the image of Californias appeal — climate, culture, natural beauty, and a dynamic job-creating economy.
Please note, California sells well outside our national borders. In 2017, the state added 318,752 residents who previously lived in another country, tops in the nation. As a share of population, these recent foreign transplants equaled 0.8 percent of Californias population, 10th highest among the states.
This is not just scoring some state-vs.-state popularity contest. The results are a prime example of how expensive living, among other challenges, lowers Californias allure to other Americans. But solutions are tricky.
California businesses argue the economy suffers due to this population-growth challenge, for it multiplies the pain of a labor shortage. Its an especially long-term concern when one considers the aging population and young adults delaying, if not avoiding, having children.
Plus, corporations and individuals also have the choice to move to many other states where housing is cheaper housing and tax burdens lower.
But Californians, if voting patterns show overall sentiment, dont seem too worried. Calls for big increases in homebuilding in order to lower living costs are fought at statewide and local levels in numerous ways. And voters seem willing to raise taxes to balance budgets and, most recently, to repair roads.
The census report shows 87 percent of Californians did not move at all in 2017. Thats up from 83 percent in 2010. Only 11 states had larger shares of their population remaining in the same home.
Thats a measurement of some satisfaction among the citizenry, despite Californias numerous challenges. Thats also a political riddle: How to convince a very entrenched populace that drawing more people from other states — by building more housing and infrastructure — is the cure to the states ills?
Its one thing to argue growth will keep your kid in California. Its harder to sell growth when it may be used to lure in a kid from somewhere else.