Friday, September 2, 2022






        Perhaps no California story this year was overblown more than a report from United Van Lines which seemed to show a huge outflow of California residents – into places like Vermont, South Dakota, South Carolina and West Virginia.


        Surprisingly, the usual suspects in attracting emigrating Californians – Texas, Idaho and Arizona – did not finish in the top five in the moving van report.


        Let’s make it clear: This was by no means a scientific study, as it used data only from one of the pricier movers, rather than including do-it-yourself numbers from outfits like U-Haul or Ryder, and also did not include numbers from any smaller operators.


        So the report does not really tell us how many Californians moved or where to. Of course, we already know that: In 2021, California lost a net 135,000 inhabitants. Approximately 40,000 of this loss was from Covid-related deaths. So the actual move-out figure after all incoming and outgoing persons bounced around, other than the deceased, was actually about 95,000.


        Many of them are former white collar office workers sent home during the first days of the pandemic to work remotely. Once they were excused from the office, no one much cared where they perform their duties, or at what time of day or night, so long as they get the job done and attend any required virtual meetings via services like Zoom or Google Meet.


        That’s one reason why San Francisco, the high-tech hub that recently had a severe housing shortage, now has falling rents that the city hopes will soon stabilize.


        Those leaving San Francisco and other urban California cities could go anywhere. Which meant that many chose far lower-priced locations than where they had been living. Some ended up in Tennessee, some in Idaho, some in Colorado, some in Vermont. It didn’t matter to their employers – if they stayed with the same employers. That was far from universal, as the pandemic-induced changes also appear to be a cause of the “great resignation” phenomenon that sees labor shortages in many industries, from restaurants to high-tech and everything in between. Even airlines have been affected, a labor shortage one reason for the thousands of flight cancellations that plagued travelers over the summer.


        Of those who did move, other studies have shown about 32 percent did so to be closer to family, a new high enabled by the trend toward remote work. Most of those moving to Florida, for example, landed in urban centers and not rural locations, suggesting that many wanted to be near retired parents.


        Now those who like to denigrate California are using the United Van Lines numbers to make it seem that this state will soon be empty, despite the fact it still contains 39.5 million residents -- very near its all-time peak -- some 11 million more than the second largest state, Texas.


        How long Texas remains a popular destination for California emigres is anybody’s guess, given the ultra-lax gun laws and ultra-strict anti-abortion measures it has lately adopted. We don’t yet know how many young women will rule out moving there, married or not, because of the radical Texas no-exceptions abortion ban.


        Which means the United Van Lines report showing nearly 60 percent of moves by Californians in 2020-21 were to out-of-state locations probably gives an exaggerated impression of a mass exodus, when relatively few people or families were involved.


        The top inbound states for the company’s moves were small ones like Vermont and South Dakota, both with populations well under 1 million, slightly larger than Fresno.


        Both are also remote, with no large cities, making them textbook locations for pandemic-induced moves. Both also have housing prices far below California levels.


        Put all this together and it’s clear few reports have ever gotten more undeserved attention than this one from United Van Lines. Which is not the fault of United, in any way. Rather, that is the responsibility of news outlets hungry for almost any negative story related to California.


    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

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