The Volokh Conspiracy

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Number of People Moving To and From California

"At the end of September 2021, entrances to California were 38% lower than at the end of March 2020. Exits, following a dip early in the pandemic, have rebounded and are now 12% higher than pre-COVID levels—on pace with pre-pandemic trends."


Data from a California Policy Lab analysis; the light blue are people leaving, the dark blue are people arriving. (This tracks domestic migration only.)

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  1. The restriction to people with credit history could cause a large bias if you're counting bodies. If you're interested in well-off people to track capital flight it should work better.

    1. It's Congressional representation that is at stake, and bragging rights.

  2. Even if a billionaire, you live like an animal, in a Darwinian cesspool in California. The government has totally taken the side of the parasite, which are their voters.

  3. To a certain extent, this was expected given the policies in place.

    However, viewing the report, this is rather more dramatic than I anticipated. The Bay Area is crashing. It's crashing hard. Coupled with the crime increase...

    People, move out. That leads to empty properties. That leads to more crime. (already an issue). Which leads to more people moving out...

    The software industry can move, and move quite easily. If they do, because the employees don't want to live there... A crash like the Decline of Detroit could be happening.

    1. Crime stats for SF are down from 2019. There's been a lot of media hyperventilation over MASSIVE CRIME WAVES!!!1! but it's mostly just click-bait nonsense. Actual crime statistics are showing a steady decline.

      1. The chart is for California. There is more to California than San Francisco.

        Armchair Lawyer posted about the Bay Area. A subset of California, San Francisco is a subset of the Bay Area.

        And then, does individual experience on the street match the official statistics?

  4. California is ground zero for rich, shallow progressives intentionally making life worse for everyone else. They make everyone's life worse for the Earth, to fight the culture war (against their neighbors), and to protect and enhance their personal wealth and status.

    And when they aren’t making life worse intentionally, they’re doing it naively by ignoring (poor) K-12 schools, ignoring the basic day-to-day business of government, and putting up the welcome sign for anyone — no matter how slothful or criminal they are — to show up and live there (not in their rich neighborhoods though).

    1. "California is ground zero for rich, shallow progressives intentionally making life worse for everyone else"

      Do you prefer half-educated, roundly bigoted, childishly superstitious, belligerently ignorant conservatives mired in can't-keep-up backwaters featuring declining towns, dying industries, and the depleted human residue that remains after generations on the wrong end of bright flight?

      If so, enjoy life in West Virginia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Kentucky, Wyoming, Alabama, Idaho, Oklahoma, Utah, South Dakota, Arkansas, or another desolate, obsolete backwater.

      1. I would live in any of those places over California. Mercifully for me I am a native Texan and continue to live there. The only thing some parts of California have over Texas is the summer climate, and that's not nearly enough.

  5. Everything seemed under control until a good part of the state started going up in flames. Due to Republican policies, sirs.

    1. If you click through to the linked article, in item 4 it has a county by county map. The epicenter (heh!) of population shift sees to be the highly urbanized bay area. The single highest area is the city of San Francisco itself. Is it your view that that is mostly wildfire related relocations?

      1. Seems unlikely, but I can confirm that the smoke gets thick here in the city when there's a fire. OTOH, the Republican policies that shuttered state mental health facilities certainly impacted the rate of homelessness and the "War on Drugs" hasn't been helpful either.

        1. The shuttering of mental health facilities and the misguided "war" on drugs were national policies. Yet somehow they are only negatively affecting Californians' decisions to move? How does that work exactly?

          1. Nice weather. You always get more homeless people in places where the climate is nice, it shifts the incentives at the margins.

    2. Republicans solely were responsible for a century of counter-productive forestry management practices? Republicans are presumably still responsible for the perpetuation of those failed practices despite being essentially a negligible minority in California government? That's an interesting argument. Do you have any evidence for that claim?

      1. Republicans solely were responsible for a century of counter-productive forestry management practices?

        Not implausible, Rossami. The career staff at the Forest Service has always been drawn mostly from rural America. The agency encourages a resource-extraction orientation for everyone it comes in contact with. When a road crosses into a national forest, there is almost always a sign featuring the name of the forest, and the slogan, "Land of Many Uses"—which everyone understands as an intended discouragement for the conservation-minded.

        The Forest Service is, overwhelmingly, a grazing-, logging-, mining-supporting sort of agency. When ranchers with grazing allotments decide there are too many predators around, it's the Forest Service they turn to, to shoot out the wolves and poison the coyotes. If the ranchers' problem is too little forage, then maybe the Forest Service shoots out the pronghorns instead. If the guys with the grazing allotments are overworking them, and the cows are trampling out the headwaters of salmon spawning streams, then maybe a forest manager may have to take time to turn aside complaints from conservationists. After that, it's back to the day-to-day challenge of subsidizing logging road construction, and promoting four-wheeler recreation opportunities.

        If you think any of that is exaggerated, get yourself some Google satellite views of the Cascades in, for instance, northern Oregon. You can't miss the fact that in huge regions the forests are mostly just gone, stripped away by clear cuts in a giant patchwork. But if you look closely, all along the main roads, you will find thin bands of standing trees, shielding from the view of the public the clear-cut wreckage behind them. You can drive for many miles through such scenes, and think from what you see that you have been traversing pristine wilderness. Then maybe you stop to get out and take a leak, and head just a bit away from the road for some privacy. You get quite a shock when you quickly emerge from the trees, and a vista of wrecked forests, bulldozed ground, and giant slash piles opens in front of you.

        To be fair, there have been some conservation-sensitive Forest Service projects mixed in. Maybe more in the last few decades than previously. I have known committed environmentalists among Forest Service professional staff, and a few have managed to eke out praiseworthy careers. Those have done great good in limited areas. That is as far as fairness can go. Mostly, the Forest Service has always been about Republican-style resource extraction.

    3. Democrats are firmly in control in California. Those same Democrats have no problem telling the federal government to piss off. Please explain how any problem in California can be due to Republican policies.

      1. Harvey Mosley, 46% of the area of California is not under control of state government. It is administered federally—much of it by the Forest Service, a federal agency often in tune with Republican policies, as I explained.

        1. Believe or not, East Texas has a significant timber industry, and what you describe does not apply there. Is that due to Democratic influence in Texas government? Admittedly, most timber land in Texas is privately owned. Maybe we need to privatize California's public lands.

  6. Prof. Volokh seems a disaffected Californian . . . Yet he chooses to remain in California. And to associate with a liberal-libertarian mainstream employer rather than move to a conservative-controlled institution.

    Just lathering his clingers, one most reasonably concludes.

  7. This one might not be related to a partisan culture war, as disappointing as that may be to this crowd.

    The big change in 2020 was covid, and it had a couple of effects I suspect: first, un / underemployed people leaving expensive markets; second, newly mandated telecommuters deciding they can work just as easily from less expensive / more desirable places.

    The second one is likely to continue post-covid. If I was a struggling small town in rural America, I would be finding ways to attract disaffected techies to relocate, bringing along their large salaries. It's a way to counteract the rural --> urban money suction that happens every time someone shops on Amazon, subscribes to Netflix, or buys an iPhone. There must be hundreds of thousands if not millions of newly unshackled tech and service industry workers in California alone. (The tech industry is highly incentivized to encourage people to move away. Not only do they save money on offices and physical infrastructure, but they can pay people much less when they move to places with a lower cost of living.)

    1. "If I was a struggling small town in rural America, I would be finding ways to attract disaffected techies to relocate, bringing along their large salaries."

      The downside is that they show up, start voting, and pretty soon your struggling small town is adopting the very policies that ruined the places the disaffected techies fled.

    2. but they can pay people much less when they move to places with a lower cost of living.)

      In theory. But wages are sticky.

      1. FWIW, it's happening at google.

        I agree that salary is psychologically sticky for existing employees, even given the examples above. But it's not sticky for new hires. If I'm a programmer working for Acme Corp. in Omaha, when I start looking for a new job I'm going to compare Google's remote work offer to what Acme is paying me, not what Google pays its people in San Fran.

        It's going to be really interesting to watch this all play out over the next decade or two. One of the interesting things will be what happens when companies realize that they can hire the same talent for $200k in the bay area, $100k in Omaha, or $20k in Bombay.

  8. Yes, but how many people are going to California with an aching in their heart?

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