Fewer Californians leaving state than in past recessions

Beware of scare stories about large numbers of people leaving California. It's not happening. So far, fewer than 500,000 residents have migrated out of the state between 2004 and 2010, according to Beacon Economics, which compares with the 1.5 million that left from 1991 to 1998. (Out-migration in the 204-2010 period was initially driven by a lack of affordable housing.) One explanation for the lower numbers is that the most recent downturn was felt all over the nation, with nearby states like Nevada and Arizona facing similarly high jobless levels. No sense moving to some other place that has the same problems. From report:

Second, as hard as the housing meltdown has been for those who bought homes during the bubble, prices have fallen to some of their most affordable levels in many years. In addition, population growth overall has maintained a slightly higher rate than in the 1990s. This is due in part to international immigration, which has run more than double the out-migration of domestic residents, rather than matching the numbers as was the case in the 1990s. Natural increase in our population through new births (taking into account the attrition through deaths) has also continued at a healthy pace through 2010.

With double-digit jobless rates likely to continue well into next year, out-migration might start to pick up (at some point desperate job seekers will take their chances elsewhere). However, the Beacon folks say that the tide might be stemmed by the state's affordable home prices. Also, an increase in international immigration could help bolster the housing market, boost consumer spending, and ultimately lead to more jobs.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
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