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  • Writer's pictureBig Rick Stuart

California exodus intensifies as retirees, teachers, musicians seek cheaper pastures

The California dream has been fading for a long time, and people have been voting with their feet.

In the last few years, the exodus has accelerated, with tens of thousands more people leaving than moving in.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted even more people to give up on the state, experts say. Some have retreated to their hometowns elsewhere because they lost their livelihoods. Others are taking advantage of working remotely to escape the state’s high housing prices and long commutes.

In the fiscal year that ended in July, Los Angeles County had by far the greatest net loss due to migration of any California county — more than 74,000 people, according to state demographers. Some moved to nearby areas with lower costs of living; others ventured farther or left the state altogether.

California’s beachy lifestyle and creative energy in entertainment, the arts and technology still exert a strong pull — but increasingly, only the wealthy can afford these perks. Dowell Myers, an expert on demographic change and a professor at USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy, said there is not enough affordable housing to keep young families in the state. Native Californians often stay for personal reasons, but for those who came from somewhere else, there’s little keeping them from heading to cheaper, less-crowded pastures.

“Those who migrated earlier are turning around and going back to where they came from because they just couldn’t achieve the American dream in California — because that involves buying a single-family house,” Myers said.

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