The buzz over California's ... interesting grab-bag of tax and regulatory policies has been about the nudge toward the exit they provide to wealthy residents like Phil Mickelson and on small and start-up businesses that see greener pastures elsewhere. But the data suggests that a large proportion of people heading for the exits aren't those who rank among the wealthy, but those who might hope for prosperity in the future — or, at least a shot at a decent living. Not surprisingly, they're following in the path of the jobs that sustain them.
From the Wall Street Journal:
During the Great Depression, some 1.3 million Americans—epitomized by the Joad family in John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath"—flocked to California from the heartland. To keep out the so-called Okies, the state enacted a law barring indigent migrants (the law was later declared unconstitutional). Los Angeles even set up a border patrol on the city limits. Soon the state may need to build a fence to keep latter-day Joads from leaving.
Over the past two decades, a net 3.4 million people have moved out of California for other states. But contrary to conservative lore, there has been no millionaires' march to Texas or other states with no income tax. In fact, since 2005 California has experienced a net in-migration of households earning more than $200,000, according to the U.S. Census's American Community Survey.
As it happens, most of California's outward-bound migrants are low- to middle-income, with relatively little education: those typically employed in agriculture, construction, manufacturing, hospitality and to some extent natural-resource extraction. Their median household income is about $40,000—two-thirds of the statewide median—and about 95% earn less than $80,000. Only one in 10 has a college degree, compared with 30% of California's population. Roughly 40% of the people leaving are Hispanic.
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