The Reverse-Joads of California
by Allysia Finley
Low- and middle-income residents are fleeing the state. Sacramento's liberal policies may bear much of the blame.
Over the past two decades, a net 3.4 million people have moved out of California for other states. But contrary to conservative lore, there has been no millionaires' march to Texas or other states with no income tax. In fact, since 2005 California has experienced a net in-migration of households earning more than $200,000, according to the U.S. Census's American Community Survey.
As it happens, most of California's outward-bound migrants are low- to middle-income, with relatively little education: those typically employed in agriculture, construction, manufacturing, hospitality and to some extent natural-resource extraction. Their median household income is about $40,000—two-thirds of the statewide median—and about 95% earn less than $80,000. Only one in 10 has a college degree, compared with 30% of California's population. Roughly 40% of the people leaving are Hispanic.
Even while California's Hispanic population has grown by more than 1.5 million since 2005, thanks to high birth rates and foreign immigration, two Hispanics have moved out for every one that has moved in from another state.
By contrast, four Hispanics from other states have settled in Texas and Arizona for every three that have left.
The central paradox of American political life is that blacks and Latinos tend to do better in Republican states while affluent whites do best in Democratic states.