How Covid-19 Has Changed Where Californians Live

Since the early days of the pandemic, we’ve been hearing about Californians abandoning their usual way of life for greener, cheaper past...


Since the early days of the pandemic, we’ve been hearing about Californians abandoning their usual way of life for greener, cheaper pastures.

There are the San Franciscans who resisted lockdown orders in Lake Tahoe and the Angelenos with new desert cabins at Joshua Tree. Stories abound about the guys from Silicon Valley moving to Miami and Seattle, or renting acres of land in Idaho.

The story goes like this: The coronavirus and the ability to work remotely have fundamentally reshaped where we want to live – and major California cities, especially Los Angeles and San Francisco, are not on the list.

But is all of this really true?

I’ll start with the short answer. There was no exodus from California, but pandemic forces have moved to where people reside in the state. These relocation patterns reflect what we were already seeing before Covid-19, but in overdrive.

Here’s how it shakes.

Californian population slightly down in 2020, but it was not because of a massive migration to other states. To blame are deaths from coronaviruses, a lower birth rate and fewer international arrivals.

In fact, 82% of Californians who moved last year stayed in the state, according to a report from the California Policy Lab. This figure has remained virtually stable over the past five years.

“A lot more people are moving within state than out of state,” Eric McGhee, senior researcher at the Public Policy Institute of California, told me. “This movement tends to happen in a certain metropolitan area, and a lot of it is people moving to the suburbs and suburbs.”

Californians are likely to leave Los Angeles at the Inland Empire or from San Francisco to the fringes of the Bay Area or the Sacramento area, McGhee said. It is because they want cheaper accommodation but don’t want to be so far away that they have to change jobs.

It’s been like this for a long time. These were the largest county-to-county net migrations in California between 2015 and 2019, according to census data:

  • Los Angeles to San Bernardino (20,809 people)

  • Los Angeles to Riverside (13,949)

  • Los Angeles to Orange (11,879)

  • Alameda to Contra Costa (9,246)

  • Orange at Riverside (8,282)

  • Los Angeles to Kern (6,032)

  • San Diego to Riverside (5,892)

  • San Francisco to Alameda (5,469)

  • San Francisco to San Mateo (4,239)

  • Alameda in San Joaquin (4,134)

With the emergence of the pandemic in 2020, some of these trends have shifted into high gear.

The Inland Empire matched Phoenix in 2020 for the biggest household gain from migration nationwide, The Wall Street Journal recently reported. The flow of humanity to Riverside and San Bernardino counties increased 50 percent from the previous year.

This reflects the desire of Californians to escape the exorbitant prices of homes in more coastal areas. In Riverside County, the median price of single-family homes in August was $ 570,000, compared to $ 830,070 in Los Angeles County and $ 1.85 million in San Francisco.

As my colleagues noted in a recent analysis, dear San Francisco has experienced one of the most important exoduses of the pandemic. While “the migration patterns during the pandemic looked a lot like the migratory patterns before,” San Francisco was not, they wrote.

In the city, net outflows – the number of departures minus the number of arrivals – rose to 38,800 in the last three quarters of 2020, from 5,200 at the same time the year before, according to the California Policy Lab . report. The city lost an eighth of its households last year by some estimates.

But perhaps this is good news for those combating the myth of a California exodus: Two-thirds of San Franciscans who fled landed in other parts of the Bay Area and 80 percent remained in the area. ‘State.

For more:

Today’s travel advice comes from Curtis Ridling:

“For natural beauty, I never tire of Yosemite in the fall, when the colorful leaves add to the experience. Winter with snow gives the park a different twist with a sense of calm that is not available at other times. Summer with its crowds is tough, but the view is still there when you look up and see climbers on El Capitan.

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We will share more in future editions of the newsletter.


Has your child been vaccinated against Covid-19?

Share stories of your kids getting their coronavirus shots and how it affected your vacation plans. Please include your child’s name, age and city of residence – and even a photo, if you wish.

Write to me at CAtoday@nytimes.com and your submission may be included in a future newsletter.


A lucky Californian is on the verge of becoming a multimillionaire.

The six numbers drawn at Saturday’s Super Lotto Plus matched a ticket sold at a gas station in Santa Clarita, KCAL9 reports. The winner will claim $ 38 million.

Happy holidays, indeed.


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