Exodus from L.A. and Orange Counties Feeds Inland Empire Growth Spurt

New Data shows L.A. is having a population drop to match CA’s as cost of living soars, but many Angeleno refugees are just changing counties

While California has seen an out-flux of more than 500,000 people to other states since 2020, Los Angeles and Orange counties have also experienced a mass exodus of their own—with many area ex-pats simply moving to other parts of the Golden State.

According to U.S. Postal Service change of address records, L.A. and OC have seen roughly 400,000 more people leaving than moving in from 2018 to 2022. This puts the Los Angeles metro area in second place on the list of cities experiencing the biggest net loss in households and business in recent years. The Inland Empire’s Riverside and San Bernardino communities, meanwhile, have seen an influx of new residents, with Riverside’s 36,000 new community members making it the third-highest population gain in the nation. 

“We’re seeing a lot of people stay in the Inland Empire and not commuting as much, maybe working remotely,” Burgess Moving and Storage general manager Ed Coelho told ABC 7. “The main reason is people are looking for where their money goes a little further than here.”

Indeed: Zillow places the typical value of an IE home at around $538,000 compared to L.A. and Orange counties’ $856,000. There is also the siren call of the Empire’s e-commerce boom. According to study led by the UC Riverside School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development in 2022, this sector helped the region flourish during the early days of the pandemic in comparison to its Los Angeles counterpart. The rental market surged, wages grew along with the labor force, and since April 2020, the economy has added more than 316,000 jobs.

In comparison, as noted by economist John Husing, speaking with ABC, “The cost of housing and rent in the three coastal counties, L.A., Orange and San Diego, has gotten ridiculously high.” And while Los Angeles’ sheen of luxury and legend is certainly fed by its stock of coastal mansions and suburban palaces, studies have shown that 3.5 million California households also can’t cover basic cost of living needs.

This could lead to an unprecedented change in the California profile, Hans Johnson, a demographer with the Public Policy Institute of California, told the Times. “This loss that both California is experiencing and Los Angeles County is experiencing are kind of the perfect storm from a demographic perspective, and all the components that lead to population change are all trending in a downward direction for both the state and Los Angeles,” he said.

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