Number of people moving to California drops significantly while more leave amid pandemic: Study

California
People gather in Griffith Park near the Hollywood sign on Oct. 7, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

People gather in Griffith Park near the Hollywood sign on Oct. 7, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Fewer people have moved to California from other states since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, while the number of Californians leaving to other states has gone up, a new study released Wednesday found.

Every single county has seen fewer people moving in from out of state since the end of March 2020, but declines were especially steep in San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

The study by the nonpartisan California Policy Lab found that the number of people moving to California dropped 38% at the end of September 2021, compared to the end of March 2020.

Meanwhile, the number of residents leaving to other states increased 12%. That’s roughly in-line with pre-pandemic trends, according to the researchers.

The exit rate of movers has increased in 52 of California’s 58 counties, the study found.

“Taken together, these two trends mean that population loss due to domestic migration has more than doubled since the beginning of the pandemic,” California Policy Lab found.

Since the start of the pandemic, California lost population due to domestic migration. That’s mostly because fewer people moved to the Golden state from other states.

“The public’s attention has been focused on the so-called “CalExodus” phenomenon, but the reality is that the dramatic drop in “CalEntrances” since the pandemic began has been a bigger driver of recent population changes in the state,” said the report’s co-author, Natalie Holmes.

Researchers say there is no evidence of a “pronounced exodus” from the state.

Net entrances from domestic migration dropped significantly since the start of the pandemic.

“On net today, California loses more than twice as many people to domestic migration as it did before the pandemic,” researchers said.

In Los Angeles County, 58,803 people moved away in the third quarter in 2021, while 24,882 moved into the county.

The number of people leaving California and heading to other U.S. states had already been climbing since at least 2016.

After a drop early in the pandemic, researchers say California now appears to be back on the pre-pandemic trajectory.

The study found that by the end of September 2021, Californians in most counties were less likely to move than before the pandemic started.

But that’s not the case in San Francisco and San Mateo counties, which saw 27% and 14% increases in move rates, respectively.

Californians from the Bay Area account for a larger share of those leaving the state than before the pandemic, the study found.

The researchers used anonymized credit bureau data to calculate entrances and exits from California since the start of the pandemic.

California Policy Lab said the data is one of the best ways to measure mobility in near-real-time, but because researchers relied on adults with credit histories, the sample is older, more financially advantaged and less racially and ethnically diverse than the overall population. 

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