Monday, May 1, 2023






        California lost a net of more than 114,000 residents during the last year and about 500,000 over the last three years.


        So why are Californians who stayed and those who arrived during that same time among the happiest folks in America?


        It might be that they are among the select who can afford to live in this state, where the median housing price of more than $700,000 puts California among the top three priciest places in the nation. Its most populous county, Los Angeles, even tops the statewide median price figure by about $100,000.


        Strikingly, research indicates it’s not the most expensive places in California that are happiest. Atherton, whose people average out as America’s wealthiest, does not make the top 10 list of the happiest spots in the nation, while six other California cities are on that list, as reported by the website


        Those six include the happiest city, Sunnyvale, hard by the headquarters of Apple and Google in the heart of the Silicon Valley; Fremont, where most Teslas are built, ranked fourth; with the Sacramento suburb Roseville seventh, San Jose eighth, the Los Angeles bedroom suburb of Santa Clarita ninth and Irvine in Orange County rounding out the top 10.


        Among the happiness measures the study used were the percentage of individuals earning more than $100,000 per year, living costs as a percentage of income, violent crime rates, life expectancy and the number of poor mental health days reported.


        Sunnyvale ranked first because 62.5 percent of its residents earned more than $100,000 (highest in the nation) and only 5 percent lived below the poverty level, third lowest nationally.


        No. 10 Irvine ranked high in every category, with more than 45 percent of residents earning more than $100,000 and living costs consuming just 38 percent of income. Violent crime is also very low there, at 51 incidents per 100,000 population for the last year, and citizens reporting poor mental health on just 11.3 percent of their days, with average life expectancy almost 83 years.


        By contrast, the happiest place in Texas, the Dallas suburb of Plano, with 288,000 population (about double the size of the Los Angeles suburb of Torrance), saw about one-third of its populace earn more than $100,000 and cost of living expenses eat up 40.3 percent of income, even though housing prices are far lower than in Irvine.


        Some might say that there’s too much emphasis on money in this study. But a 2021 University of Pennsylvania study found a direct link between happiness and income growth.


        Another major factor in happiness, as shown by many studies, is marriage: The higher the percentage of married people in a locale, the happier the average person will be.


        And among the top 10 happiest cities in the report, the majority of adults were married  in all but one – Arlington, VA, which came in second on the overall happiness index.


        Still, despite its strong showing on happiness, California has seen slightly more than 1 percent of its people depart for other states over the last three years. Again, the primary factor is money, if the state’s Finance Department is to be believed.


        That department hangs responsibility for most of the population loss on housing prices. Prices are too high for most Americans to buy in, even if they sell off fully paid-off homes in other places.


        High prices also cause many Californians to sell and move to larger, cheaper homes elsewhere, in many cases pocketing hundreds of thousands in the process. It’s hard to argue with buying larger quarters surrounded by more open space, all at lower cost.


        These moves have been eased by the great workplace shift that’s occurred almost simultaneously with California’s largest-ever population losses. With vast numbers of white collar workers now able to work remotely from almost anywhere, and still keep their high-paying jobs, it’s completely expectable that some will move out of state, and some have.


        But if legislative strategies designed to make housing here denser come to reality, it’s also expectable that some prices will drop and allow more people to move here and enjoy the lifestyle that makes this state dominate the list of happy places.





    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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