California Economic Future: What, Me Worry?
Almost 50% of Californians said they are seriously thinking of leaving the state in the next few years or are giving it some consideration, according to a new University of California at San Diego survey of 3,000 voters. While no one expects such an exodus to transpire, the findings serve to highlight the dour mood of many Californians as the state continues to shake off the effects of the COVID shutdown, restore the millions of jobs lost over the past 15 months and throttle up its economy.
Strangely, numerous media outlets gave the results a largely positive spin, noting that a majority weren’t planning to leave and citing data indicating that a mass exit hasn’t occurred. Meanwhile, an analysis this week of new U.S. Postal Service data by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute found that out-of-state change of address requests have accelerated in the past 12 months, and 2021 is on pace to see more moves out of the state than were experienced in 2020.
Despite our view of the results, the Bay Area Council remains an unwavering champion of this great Golden State and its myriad phenomenal attributes that benefit us all. And whether or not residents are leaving in droves, we refuse to put our head in the sand when it comes to addressing California’s many significant challenges. The Council is continuing its work to form a new statewide advocacy organization that can translate the concerns of millions of Californians, particularly those in lower- and middle-income groups, into action on a variety of fronts, from economic competitiveness, housing, homelessness, public safety, business climate and more.
Our goal is to address the concerns of 36% of voters in the UCSD poll who no longer believe the “California Dream” still works for them and their families and the 42% who think California will be a worse place for their children when they grow up. In a potentially troubling sign for California’s economic future, the poll also found that 81% of voters believe the state would be better off 10 years from now if the population stayed the same or declined significantly. As a general rule, a declining population results in economic stagnation or contraction.
Policy makers would be wise to pay attention to the reasons Californians think leaving the state would improve their lives. The poll found that almost 85% said they would find less expensive housing outside California, 57% said their job prospects would be better, 80% said taxes would be lower, 66% said they would have a better overall quality of life, 69% said crime would be lower in another state and almost 68% said their children would have a better life outside California. These are hard truths that we must confront in order to secure a better future for California.