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A slowing of pandemic-era migration patterns?

The latest quarter of data on interstate migration into and out of California shows signs that pandemic-era mobility patterns may be slowing or even reversing in some places. Read on for more details.

Key Findings

1. In Q4 2021, seasonally adjusted exits dropped for the first time since summer 2020 and seasonally adjusted entrances inched upward for the third straight quarter. Seasonally adjusted exits declined 0.9% in Q4 2021, and seasonally adjusted entrances rose 0.6%. Year-over-year unadjusted Q4 exits are down 3.3% from 2020. Year-over-year unadjusted Q4 entrances are up 2.4% from 2020.

2. The Bay Area saw the most substantial drops in entrances during 2020, but rebounded some in 2021 so that seasonally adjusted quarterly entrances are now -13.3% since Q1 2020, as compared to -16.5% the quarter prior. Quarterly entrances to the other two most populous regions, which include urban centers in Southern California, also remain lower than pre-pandemic levels.

3. The three Bay Area counties that saw the biggest pandemic changes to interstate exits and entrances – San Francisco, Santa Clara, and San Mateo – are all seeing returns to pre-pandemic patterns, though the spread between exits and entrances remains elevated in all three counties.

4. Out-of-state exits are leveling off or decreasing in all California regions. Following a drop in exits at the start of the pandemic, the average regional change in exits from 2020 Q3 (the low point) to 2021 Q3 was a 14.6% increase, whereas the average regional change from the third to fourth quarter of 2021 was a 0.3% decrease.

5. The quarterly move rate among California residents (the % moving to any destination in a different ZIP code) dropped early in the pandemic and has stayed low, ending 2021 at 3.7%.

6. Conditional on moving, the seasonally adjusted share of California movers that leave the state accelerated during the pandemic, by 2.6 percentage points since 2020 Q1, compared to a 0.7 percentage-point rise over the prior 7-quarter period. In contrast, the share of movers that move within their county fell by 3.3 percentage points since 2020 Q1, compared to a 0.8 percentage point-fall over the prior 7 quarters.

This analysis uses the University of California Consumer Credit Panel (UC-CCP), an anonymized longitudinal dataset of information about adults with a credit history who have lived in California since 2004. Data includes each person’s ZIP code of residence, as reported by creditors, and credit information at a quarterly frequency. We define moves as changes in ZIP codes from one quarter to the next.

Suggested Citation

Holmes, N., White, E. (2022). A slowing of pandemic-era migration patterns?. California Policy Lab.

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