Bethany Jansen and her husband, Andrew, decided to pack up their 500-square-foot Venice apartment and move to Bethany’s hometown near St. Louis and start a new life and a new business.
Jansen, who worked in downtown Los Angeles before the COVID-19 pandemic, commuted two hours a day. Jansen, 32, and her 34-year-old husband made about $150,000 a year together, but felt it wasn’t enough to afford a house in the neighborhoods where they wanted to live.
Now in St. Louis, the couple makes less money but says it goes much further, and without the intense commute.
“We get more out of our paycheck and the quality of life is better because we are not sitting in a car all day in traffic,” he said. “Working from home allows me to set my own hours and my mental health is much better. We’re not making six figures like we used to, but it doesn’t matter as much because we can pay the rent and do the things we have to do.”
The Jansens represent a part of the Los Angeles exodus Y other major cities that took place during the pandemic, which opened up many opportunities for remote work and sparked deep conversations about what they wanted out of life.
For the fairly high-income people who left Los Angeles, a big factor was home prices, which continued to rise during the pandemic and left them wondering if they could ever buy a home here.
“It was a factor knowing that we were never going to be able to afford a house,” he said. “People are buying a shack in Los Angeles for $700,000, renovating it and selling it for $1.5 million. No matter how hard we work, we can never afford that.”
The couple now pay $1,300 a month to live in a three-bedroom house that she says feels like a “mansion” compared to their one-bedroom Los Angeles apartment, which rents about $1,800 a month.
“Here you don’t enjoy the landscape or the culture so much, being able to drive to the beach; those are the things we miss about Los Angeles,” Jansen said. “But those are the kinds of things that we agree to give up to have this life here.”
Much has been made of the changes in population outside of California’s coastal hubs like Los Angeles and the Bay Area, and the new lives some people have found in other parts of the state and the nation. For those with financial means, the trade-offs meant giving up the dream of living in the Golden State with cheaper housing and other financial benefits of less expensive cities.
But demographic experts doubt that these changes in urban populations are permanent.
People will eventually move back, they say, new residents will be drawn to all that California has to offer, and immigration will help offset the departure.
Of the 56 major metropolitan areas in the country, Los Angeles had the second largest numerical population loss between July 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021, according to analysis by the Brookings Institution using estimates from the US Census Bureau. Net internal migration, the number of people who moved compared to who moved was 204,776 in Los Angeles. That’s nearly double the population loss the city experienced between 2019 and 2020, when it lost 128,803 residents.
“I don’t think we should see California as a long-term losing population. Immigration will come back and there will be a respite in terms of affordability and other opportunities.”
— William Frey, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution
Like other major metropolitan areas, LA has seen an increase in domestic emigration since 2010, as more residents moved to other parts of the country and the economy improved. Between 2019 and 2020, emigration did not change significantly in the Los Angeles metropolitan area compared to previous years, but increased considerably between 2020 and 2021.
William Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a demographer who wrote the analysis, said California has been losing middle-class residents and gaining young professionals and college graduates since about 2000, and because immigration to the U.S. declined significantly. pandemic, the flow of immigrants has not been enough to offset internal emigration.
“California being a pretty liberal state, they have all these programs to help with student loans and affordable housing, but there’s a niche of people who aren’t doing too bad to qualify, but could do a lot better by moving somewhere else.” said. he said she.
international migration slowed down during the pandemic, reaching the lowest levels in the US in decades, according to data from the Census Bureau. The United States gained 244,000 immigrants between 2020 and 2021, a significant decrease from the million who arrived in the United States between 2015 and 2016 and the 477,000 who immigrated between 2019 and 2020.
In the Los Angeles metro area, 5,237 international residents moved between 2020 and 2021, the lowest number in more than two decades, according to Frey’s analysis of census estimates. By comparison, some 11,676 international immigrants moved to the city between 2018 and 2019.
Frey hopes immigration picks up and helps repopulate the state’s workforce.
“I don’t think we should see California as a long-term losing population,” he said. “Immigration will come back and there will be a respite in terms of affordability and other opportunities.”
Frey also said that the past two years will not be a good indicator of long-term migration trends in Los Angeles, and that he expects some residents to return after the pandemic.
“Everyone says it’s about working from home changing people’s work habits, but sooner or later they’ll want to regroup to some degree,” he said. “There is so much to the California coast with its diverse economy. People who have a creative upbringing are going to want to live there. It’s too early to say it’s the end.”
USC economics professor Matthew Kahn, who wrote the book “Going Remote” about shifting to work from home during the pandemic, said that despite high taxes, California has historically been able to retain residents due to high-quality services and amenities, including the climate and its picturesque beaches. The problem arises when people no longer believe that those services live up to their expectations, he said.
“The super rich can always have the best of everything. But if you felt housing was expensive, you were worried about the quality of schools, and what you wanted out of life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, COVID was a wake-up call to try something new and experiment,” he said. .
The COVID-19 crisis opened up new possibilities for more residents to live further from their jobs, and many Californians took advantage of that, Kahn said.
“Americans have tended to live 30 minutes from where they work, but in the future, that could be a bigger radius if you only go a couple of days a month,” he said.
Kahn believes one way California leaders can address the recent exodus is to focus on improving their services.
“Cities like Los Angeles would have to do a better job of competing to keep these people if they are more free,” he said. “I’m a big believer in competition, so if California is exporting wealth and losing the upper middle class, cities are going to have to do a better job of tackling crime, improving quality of life, reducing pollution, all things who care about the quality of life from day to day”.
Taylor Avakian, a broker in Los Angeles and a senior associate at Matthews Real Estate Investment Services, said he has seen Californians move to Florida, Texas and other hot-weather states because of lower taxes.
“People would rather pay less taxes and a big catalyst was the pandemic,” he said. “We pay taxes for the fantastic things that we have here in California, like the Mediterranean climate, and we didn’t have access because everything was closed. People were asking, ‘Why am I paying for these services if I can’t use them?’”
In November 2020, Tulasi Lovell moved from Culver City to a large house in Ramona, San Diego County.
Lovell, 34, wanted to own a home but couldn’t afford to buy in Los Angeles. After many of her friends left Los Angeles during the pandemic and she no longer had to work in an office, Lovell decided to move after about a year in Ramona to Brooklyn, New York, with plans to buy a house in a suburb. near.
Lovell, who earns a combined $200,000 a year with her husband, said it would not be feasible for them to buy a desirable home in Los Angeles.
“There’s this joke that if you see a million-dollar property in Los Angeles, it’s doomed,” he said. “I feel like it’s not right at the moment, unless you’ve already bought your house years ago. Becoming a new owner is almost impossible.”
Sarah Dobbyn, 41, gave birth to her second child in April 2020, just as local businesses and parks were closing, leaving her and her husband, Joe, with nowhere to take their children.
The couple decided to move to Lake Oswego, Oregon, where Dobbyn’s parents had a four-bedroom house that they offered in exchange for paying for home repairs and upkeep.
“We have two kids here, and we needed to give up the dream of living the Los Angeles life and being able to go to the beach and get by in a small apartment,” she said. “We made a good salary, but our money didn’t go very far in Los Angeles”
Dobbyn, who earns just over $100,000 a year, said she and her husband would not have been able to afford a house in Los Angeles, and if they had, they would have had to move farther away.
“It was quality of life for us, our son and the new baby,” he said. “If Joe and I hadn’t had children, we would have stuck it out in Los Angeles”
Lovell said he could see even more people leave Los Angeles if businesses continue let employees work from home.
“If more jobs are decentralized with remote work, the middle class just has a lot better options,” he said.