Hans Johnson and Eric McGhee at PPIC:
During the height of the pandemic, the flows out of the state became so large that almost every demographic and socioeconomic group has experienced net losses. For example, California used to gain college graduates even as it lost less educated adults. But in the last couple of years, the state has started losing college graduates as well, quite markedly—albeit still not to the same extent as less educated adults. Even among young college graduates in their 20s, a group that California has disproportionately attracted in the past, the flows out of the state have been about the same as the flows into the state.
Perhaps most striking, California is now losing higher-income households as well as middle- and lower-income households. During the pandemic, the number of higher-income households moving to California declined a bit, but the number leaving the state increased dramatically (from less than 150,000 in 2019 to almost 220,000 by 2021).
The losses of college graduates and higher-income households are likely related to the ability of many highly educated and highly paid workers to work from home. The Census Bureau’s Household Pulse surveys show that about two-thirds of the almost three million Californians who telework full-time (five or more days per week) have at least a bachelor’s degree. Among recent higher-income Californians leaving the state, over half (53%) report working from home.