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700,000 Californians, New Yorkers Moved Out of State in 2021 as Texas and Florida Populations Grow

Jonathan Walker
Jonathan loves talking politics, economics and philosophy. He carries unique perspectives on everything making him a rather odd mix of liberal-conservative with a streak of independent Austrian thought.
Published: December 27, 2021
Tents of unhoused people line a street in Hollywood, California, September 1, 2021.
Tents of unhoused people line a street in Hollywood, California, September 1, 2021. (Image: ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

The latest United States Census Bureau numbers show that California has lost 1 percent of its population in the past year due to domestic migration. The state has a population of over 39.5 million and has seen an exodus of its residents. They have moved to other states, like Texas, for better schools, a rural lifestyle, and affordable housing options.

“In 2021, 20 states and the District of Columbia lost residents via net domestic migration. Largest domestic migration losses were in California (-367,299), New York (-352,185), and Illinois (-122,460),” according to the report.

A recently published state estimate also showed a decline in California’s population, especially in San Francisco and Los Angeles. That’s the second-ever year-on-year decline in the state’s history. San Francisco lost 64,000 people; Los Angeles lost 67,500 citizens. San Francisco and Los Angeles combined account for 44 percent of California’s total population. Of the 10 counties in California that have a population of at least one million, seven have experienced population loss.

“I don’t think this is completely surprising… People are trading a commute for a level of housing that they could not afford or could not even purchase in the Bay Area,” Walter Schwarm, California’s chief demographer, told the Associated Press.

State officials blamed the decline on falling birth rates, rising COVID-19 deaths, and lower international migration. Schwarm expects population growth to resume sometime in the future, potentially pushing up the number of citizens above the 40 million mark by 2025.

Republican Tom Lackey, a state Assemblyman, blamed the demographic change on public policy. He insisted that the affordability and safety of living in the state have been compromised. The median price of a single-family home is $800,000, prohibiting many families from owning their own house. The high cost of homeownership also means that rent costs are high, straining family budgets.

For instance, blue states like California, New York, and Illinois have seen the largest numerical decline in population. Republican states like Texas and Florida saw their populations increase. 

Overall, the population of the United States grew only by 0.1 percent in the past year, which is the lowest rate of growth since the nation was founded. The country only added 392,665 individuals during this period. The voting-age population, which includes individuals aged 18 and above, rose to 258.3 million. Of the four regions, the South remained the most populous and was the only region that saw a net positive migration growth.

“Population growth has been slowing for years because of lower birth rates and decreasing net international migration, all while mortality rates are rising due to the aging of the nation’s population… Now, with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, this combination has resulted in a historically slow pace of growth,” Kristie Wilder, a demographer in the Population Division at the Census Bureau, said in a statement.