California’s Exodus Is Only Getting Worse

By: Lauren Fokas | Last updated: Jul 08, 2024

California was once considered the epitome of the American dream; people from all over moved to the gorgeous seaside state to find fortune and fame. However, over the past several years, California has lost far more residents than it has gained.

Hundreds of thousands of residents have abandoned the wildly expensive state for greener (cheaper) pastures. And recently collected data shows the exodus is far from over.

The Great California Exodus

The US Census Bureau and the California Department of Finance calculate domestic migration throughout the United States every year.

A photograph of a California flag and a US flag next to a palm tree against a blue sky

Source: Freepik

And they reported that California has lost more residents than it has gained every year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. This mass migration is now commonly called the California Exodus.

How Many People Have Left California Since 2020?

According to the collected data, 725,000 people left California in 2020. Then, another 692,000 moved out in 2021, another 144,472 abandoned the state in 2023, and 17,824 have left in the first six months of 2024.

Couple Going Down The Stairs With Box Of Books And Plants

Source: Blue Bird/Pexels

While each of these millions of Americans has their own personal reasons for ditching the Golden State, the most common reason for moving is the ever-growing cost of living in California.

California Is the Second Most Expensive State in the Country

The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center recently conducted an extensive study to find out which states are the most affordable and which are the most expensive.

A black and white photograph of hands holding a stack of US cash

Source: Freepik

California came in as the second most expensive state, just behind Hawaii. In fact, the cost of living in California is 38% more than the national average.

Some Experts Assumed the Mass Migration Was Slowing Down

The data clearly shows that the number of people leaving California has gotten smaller each year since the exodus began in 2020.


Source: Wikimedia Commons

Therefore, many experts argued that the migration away from the Golden State was slowing and would soon stop. However, newly collected data shows otherwise.

Popular Moving Site moveBuddha Says More Californians Are Planning to Leave

The moving and storage company moveBuddha recently published its collected data regarding the current migration from California, and it noted that the exodus is far from over.

A woman sits in an armchair while typing on a laptop

Source: Freepik

The company explained, “Californian move-out searches are the highest of any U.S. state with 46 in for every 100 looking to move out.”


moveBuddha Found More People Are Leaving California Than Any Other State

According to moveBuddha, more California residents have searched routes leaving their homes than those of any other state.

Lanes and lanes of heavy commuter traffic on a highway in California with dozens of cars slowed down.

Source: iStock

In fact, five of the top ten most popular routes searched were those leaving California for other (more affordable) states.


California Cities Are Losing the Most Residents

While there are certainly people leaving their homes all over California, moveBuddha found that the majority of exit searches were based in the state’s most populated cities: Los Angeles and San Francisco.

A photograph of a map, zoomed in on southern California

Source: iStock

Of course, because of their high populations, it would make sense that the website saw the most hits from people in those cities. However, it also points to the reality that many Californians no longer enjoy their once coveted metropolises.


The Populations of LA and SF Have Remained Stagnant

It’s important to note that the populations of both LA and San Francisco have remained stagnant over the past four years. But this is the first time in either city’s history that their populations have not increased every year.

A photograph of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California

Source: Freepik

While there will always be some people moving to California, the fact that more are leaving than arriving is not only significant, it’s also concerning.


More Residents Leaving California Could Be Detrimental to the Economy

If moveBuddha is correct in its assumption that more California residents will be leaving the state in 2024 and 2025, California could find itself in trouble.

A digital illustration of the US economy with an American flag, stock prices, and currency

Source: Freepik

California’s economy is the largest in the United States and the fifth largest in the world, with a $3.944 trillion gross state product. However, experts argue that this will almost certainly change over the next year.


California Lost Billions During the Exodus

The millions of people who left California over the past four years took their money and businesses with them. That means that the state made significantly less income on taxes than it did the decade before.

A pad of sticky notes with “pay debt” written on the top note in red writing. There is a red pen next to the sticky notes and a pair of glasses behind it.

Source: Towfiqu Barbhuiya/Unsplash

According to data from the IRS, California lost $29 billion in tax revenue in 2021 alone. The state now finds itself in an incredibly difficult situation: California is $68 billion in debt and the economy is in serious trouble.


The California Dream Is Over... For Now

There’s no denying that life in California is simply too expensive for the average American, and has certainly lost its title as the land of dreams. However, some say that California can recover, but only if its government starts making very different decisions.

A photograph of the Los Angeles, California, skyline behind several palm trees at sunset

Source: Britannica

Whether or not the next governor will make the necessary changes to return California to its former glory remains to be seen, but until it does, it’s likely that people will continue to abandon the once-great Golden State.