California ranked last — again — nationwide in the number of people moving into the state in 2021, according to a study from U-Haul's Growth Index.
Analyzing more than 2 million of its transactional data last year, U-Haul, one of the nation's largest moving rental companies, found people coming into California in one-way U-Haul trucks decreased 1% year-over-year. Meanwhile, U-Haul officials said that departures — or the number of people leaving the state — declined 2% from 2020, only because of a lack of inventory to meet customer demand for outbound moving trucks.
Texas, Florida and Tennessee ranked No. 1, 2 and 3 respectively in U-Haul's top growth states. Pennsylvania, Illinois and California were the bottom three among the 50 states.
U-Haul calculates growth by the net gain of one-way U-Haul trucks entering a state versus leaving that state in a calendar year.
A U-Haul official told Spectrum News that the company does not provide the raw transaction numbers of people who rented a one-way rental in or out of a state due to competitive and proprietary reasons.
The study released earlier this week should come as no surprise. Despite its beaches, diversity, weather, scenery and reputation as the Golden State, California has one of the highest taxes and living costs nationwide.
According to U-Haul and several other studies on California migration, the coronavirus pandemic accelerated that out-migration trend. Before the pandemic, California ranked in the bottom tier of people moving in and out of the state, U-Haul officials found.
"California has always been a state … where we've seen more outflow than inflow, and certainly that was increased by the pandemic in 2020," said Victor Vanegas, an area district vice president at U-Haul in a video statement given to media. "We had a lot more people leaving the state in that time. Right now, it seems to continue but has tapered off from the massive hysteria that 2020 felt like."
In 2020, during the pandemic, U-Haul officials said people coming to California in one-way U-Haul trucks fell by more than 12% compared to pre-pandemic 2019.
The nonpartisan California Policy Lab also found that the number of people moving into California has significantly dropped since the pandemic began in March 2020 due to the lack of people moving in.
"The public's attention has been focused on the so-called 'CalExodus' phenomenon, but the reality is that the dramatic drop in 'CalEntrances' since the pandemic began has been a bigger driver of recent population changes in the state," said Natalie Holmes, a research fellow at the California Policy Lab and a Ph.D. student at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley.
Additionally, demographers cited by the LA Times found the state's population has been hurt due to fewer foreign immigrants, a declining birth rate and COVID-related deaths.
Despite the so-called CalExodus trend of people leaving the state and the drop in CalEntrances, California remains an attractive destination for those who want to live here.
"Regardless of the challenges that we've had in the last couple of years, whether it was pandemic or politics, there are still people who want to move [to California]," said Vanegas. "Maybe we won't reverse the migration trends, but maybe it'll balance out."