The COVID-19 pandemic managed to do something to California that earthquakes, wildfires, and high taxes couldn’t: It caused the nation’s most populous and economically powerful state to lose population to other parts of the country. (These are the cities Americans are abandoning.)
Last year, the state’s population declined from 39,648,994 in January 2020 to 39,466,917 a year later. While that’s admittedly only a slight decline of 0.46%, it represents the state’s first demographic retreat in more than a century, according to the New York Times. Most of that loss occurred in the latter half of 2020, during the worst of the pandemic.
This decline is expected to be a one-year blip, according to state finance officials, who have said they expect a slight rebound in growth moving forward. Nevertheless, the change recorded in the 2020 Census was enough for California to lose a congressional seat for the first time.
Even if it hasn’t previously declined, however, California’s population growth has been slowing dramatically year after year. The Public Policy Institute of California, citing state government data, reports that California’s population grew by only 6.5% from 2010 to 2020 — less than the national average of 6.7%. Were it not for the 1.5 million legal international immigrants who moved into the state over the course of that decade, California’s population would have declined earlier. (Here’s how every state’s population has changed since 2010.)
Where are the people who move out of California going?” To find out, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed state-to-state migration flows from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey, revealing the number of people living in other states (or Washington D.C.) in 2019 who had lived in California the previous year. State population and population change figures are based on one-year estimates from the ACS (five-year estimates for Washington D.C.). Note that our list does not include California (for obvious reasons). All rankings are out of a universe of 49 states and the District of Columbia.