cities are shrinking

Peoples’ Eyes Have Opened and Now They’re Taking Action

In 2021, the state of California announced its first population decline in state history. Published census data shows that there have been significant population declines in major US cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The LA Times reports:

In terms of total numbers, Los Angeles County lost about 160,000 residents — more than any other county in the nation, the data show. But L.A. County has about 10 million people, so the per capita loss was slightly more than 1% compared with 6.7% in San Francisco and 6.9% in New York.

“We are in this new demographic era for California of very slow or maybe even negative growth,” said Hans Johnson, a demographer with the Public Policy Institute of California…

Nearly all of the state’s population loss was driven by domestic migration, data show, meaning most people who are leaving are choosing to go — often seeking more affordable housing and job opportunities, or moving with family.

As mentioned, San Francisco is a much smaller city but saw much higher losses as a percentage.

The San Francisco Chronicle notes:

From July 2020 to July 2021, San Francisco’s population decreased by an estimated 6.3%, losing nearly 55,000 people in that time frame. San Mateo County was fourth, with its population decreasing 3.2% and a loss of nearly 25,000 people…

Jeff Bellisario, executive director of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, told The Chronicle in an email that the Census Bureau data confirms patterns the organization has been tracking over the course of the pandemic.

“Remote work options combined with a high cost of living in the Bay Area have been the major factors contributing to a falling population in many parts of the region,” he wrote…

“Affordability and quality of life issues remain huge challenges for San Francisco on its road to full population recovery,” he said. “Employment numbers are also showing San Francisco’s jobs recovery moves more slowly than the rest of the nation, which does not bode well for future population growth.”

Additional data published last December showed it’s not just that people are leaving California: It’s also that fewer people are moving there.

The timing of all of this, July 2020 to July 2021, is clearly timed amidst the pandemic. As people were allowed to work remotely from home, the necessity of living in big cities and paying for expensive mortgages declined. But obviously the COVID pandemic was happening everywhere, so individuals choosing to move out the state weren’t looking to flee the pandemic so much as the pandemic gave them a natural inflection point to flee the city (and the state).

Between the wildfires, the sky-high taxes and cost of living, the dirty and dangerous homeless camps, and the fact that gas is at least $1 more there than nearly anywhere else in the country, it’s a miracle the population decline in California’s big cities has been so small. But that could also change. Rent was down in 2020 which may have kept some people hanging on, but it is back up now, along with $6+ a gallon gas.

The video below is a local news report from SoCal about the ongoing exodus, which features a man who moved to South Carolina and is amazed by the house he could afford there. If any other California residents saw this on their TV’s, there’s a pretty good chance some of them are thinking about moving too.



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