Pandemic Patterns: California is Seeing Fewer Entrances and More Exits (Corrected)

Editor’s note: This publication updates the December 2021 version of this publication that, due to a methodological error, significantly underestimated the number of people moving into California during the pandemic. Please see our updated errata, below, that explains the error and the steps CPL took to correct it for this updated brief.

POLICY BRIEF: Pandemic Patterns: California is Seeing Fewer Entrances and More Exits PDF

PRESS RELEASE: New and Corrected Estimates of California Migration Patterns Suggest Slowing of Pandemic-Era Trends

ERRATA: Correcting the Record about Post-2020 Entrances to California PDF

News reports, anecdotes, and preliminary research have speculated about whether there has been an exodus from California during the COVID-19 pandemic. The implications of population changes, such as federal representation and federal funding allocations, are significant. This policy brief uses the University of California Consumer Credit Panel (UC-CCP), a dataset containing residential locations for all Californians with credit history, to track domestic residential moves into and out of California at a quarterly frequency through the end of September 2021.

Key Findings

1. Since the pandemic began, the rate at which California has lost population due to domestic migration has doubled, through a combination of increased exits to other states and fewer entrances from other states. Exits dropped in 2020 but then rose again so that, by the end of September 2021, they were up 12% compared to March 2020. Entrances to California, which have remained approximately level since at least 2016, dropped in the early pandemic and have stayed low, approximately 8% lower than at the end of March 2020.

Figure: Entrances to and exits from California

Source: California Policy Lab analysis of University of California Consumer Credit Panel (UC-CCP) data.
Notes: A move is defined as having a different ZIP code in the next quarter. These volumes are underestimated because the data universe for this analysis comprises adults in California with credit history, which we estimate is approximately 70% of the state’s population. Domestic migration only

2. All regions of California saw declines in out-of-state entrances since the pandemic began. By Q3 2021, only the San Joaquin Valley had returned to its pre-pandemic quarterly rate of entrances – following 6 quarters of depressed entrances. In every other region, entrances stood 1 to 17% lower than in Q1 2020.

Figure: Percent change in entrances to California relative to Q1 2020, by economic region

Source: California Policy Lab analysis of University of California Consumer Credit Panel (UC-CCP) data.
Notes: All figures reflect 4-quarter averages (ending with the indicated quarter) to smooth seasonal fluctuations. A move is defined as having a different ZIP code in the next quarter. Domestic migration only.

3. These pandemic trends were especially pronounced in the Bay Area, and especially in San Francisco, Santa Clara, and San Mateo counties. In Q3 2021 out-of-state exits to these counties were 15 to 34% higher relative to Q1 2020. Third quarter 2021 entrances stood 19 to 27% lower than Q1 2020.

Figure: Number of out-of-state entrances and exits, San Francisco

Source: California Policy Lab analysis of University of California Consumer Credit Panel (UC-CCP) data.
Notes: A move is defined as having a different ZIP code in the next quarter. Domestic migration only.


Figure: Number of out-of-state entrances and exits, Santa Clara

Source: California Policy Lab analysis of University of California Consumer Credit Panel (UC-CCP) data.
Notes: A move is defined as having a different ZIP code in the next quarter. Domestic migration only.

 

Figure: Number of out-of-state entrances and exits, San Mateo

Source: California Policy Lab analysis of University of California Consumer Credit Panel (UC-CCP) data.
Notes: A move is defined as having a different ZIP code in the next quarter. Domestic migration only.

4. Statewide, the share of movers that left California increased from 16.3% in 2016 to 20.3% at the end of September 2021. The exit rate of movers has increased in 52 of 58 California counties.

Figure: Exit rate of movers by county, before and during COVID pandemic

Source: California Policy Lab analysis of University of California Consumer Credit Panel (UC-CCP) data.
Notes: A move is defined as having a different ZIP code in the next quarter. Domestic migration only. 

5. By the end of September 2021, Californians in 48 of 58 counties were less likely to move than before the pandemic started. However, in several Bay Area counties, residents were significantly more likely to move: in particular, move rates in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties increased by 27%, 14%, and 9%, respectively.

Figure: Move rates of Californians by county, before and during COVID pandemic

Source: California Policy Lab analysis of University of California Consumer Credit Panel (UC-CCP) data.
Notes: A move is defined as having a different ZIP code in the next quarter. Domestic migration only. 

 



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