California’s Population Has Dropped by Over Half a Million Since 2020

What has been described as an exodus to other states was sparked by the pandemic, but is sustained by remote work and rising cost of housing

New census data has revealed California lost over 500,000 residents between April 2020 and July 2022, suggesting that the mass exodus sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic did not end with the crisis.

The Los Angeles Times reported the staggering figure Wednesday, noting that the primary reason behind the migration to other states is the high cost of housing, while long commutes, big crowds, crime, pollution, and the normalization of remote work are also factors spurring more departures than arrivals.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Golden State’s population was estimated at 39,538,245 as of April 1, 2020; by July 1, 2022, that number had dropped to 39,029,342—a loss of 508,903 residents.

Though Census Bureau data shows the state’s population dropped by 113,649 between July of 2021 and 2022, the Times cites figures from the state Department of Finance that shows California lost about 211,000 people. Of that larger number, nearly half were from Los Angeles County—the state’s most populous—with the bulk of departures in the county coming from the city of Los Angeles.

“There is a fast, clear and sharp spike during the pandemic,” Paul Ong, director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA, told the Times.”[People moved] away from the denser urban core, where COVID-19 risk was perceived as being higher. Remote work also added to this out migration.”

For comparison, U.S. Census Bureau data shows California’s population in 2010 was 37,253,956. And while the population is on a downward trend her, it’s trending up in Texas and Florida. The former gained about 884,000 people between April 2020 and July 2022, while the latter gained 707,000. In Utah, the population jumped by 18.3 percent between 2010 and 2020, with most of newcomers arriving California, leading that state’s governor to urge Californians to stay away, as the Beehive State is running low on water and housing.

Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign for our newsletters today