More Than 75,000 People Left California This Year, Census Estimates Show

Latest census data show fourth consecutive year of population loss for the Golden State

Gavin Newsom (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
December 20, 2023

More than 75,000 people left California this year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's latest population estimates, as the Golden State exodus continues.

This year marked the fourth consecutive year of population loss for the Golden State. And although it's slowing from the previous two years, when California lost half a million residents, the federal estimates show that the exodus hasn't stopped. The state's projected net loss comes despite an uptick in foreign immigration that brought 126,000 people into California last year.

The census analysis comes as California's Democratic leaders face a $68 billion deficit next year, exacerbated in part by high numbers of wealthy people leaving the state for lower taxes and cost of living. Government budget analysts have already warned that California will have to deal with $30 billion deficits for at least the three succeeding years.

"People are fleeing our state in droves," California GOP chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson said in a statement regarding the latest projections. "While the red states [that Democratic governor Gavin] Newsom loves to hate continue to grow in population, California's sky-high cost of living, surging crime, homeless crisis, and failing schools aren't a very compelling case for why people should stay here."

While lower-income and middle-class Californians initially led the charge in fleeing the state's high cost of living, wealthy people are increasingly fleeing as well, the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California reported this year. More college graduates are leaving the state than entering, in a reversal of a longtime trend.

The loss of wealthy residents takes a particular toll on the state's finances, which depend on rich taxpayers. Last year, the top 1 percent of earners paid about 40 percent of California's income taxes.

The loss likely translates into diminished national political power as well. Following the 2020 census, California for the first time in its history lost a congressional seat. Analysts predict that in 2030, the state will lose up to five seats.

"It's not just the absolute size of the population, but the size relative to other states," said Jack Pitney, professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College. "When one state gains, other states must lose."

According to the census analysis, Florida gained more than 365,000 and Texas gained more than 473,000. New York was the biggest loser, shedding nearly 102,000 residents, followed by California, Illinois, and Louisiana.