California stands tall among other states in terms of economic standing and agreeable living. A desirable state to live in, each year hundreds of thousands of new residents arrive in California from other states. What defines these residents — and what about the people leaving the Golden State each year for other parts of the country?

Read on for a glance into the demographics of the newcomers and those who have moved on.

The numbers on domestic migration

Of the California population in 2016:

  • 87% did not move;
  • 11% moved within California;
  • 1.3% moved to California from another state; and
  • 0.9% moved to California from another country.

While the percentage of people moving into and out of California for other states is small, it points to a continued trend in negative domestic migration.


California received 514,500 new residents from other states in 2016, a number equal to 1.3% of the state’s total population. The states from which California experienced the largest population gain were:

  • 40,900 people from New York;
  • 39,100 from Texas;
  • 33,800 from Arizona
  • 28,000 from Washington;
  • 25,400 moved from Florida;
  • 24,700 from Nevada;
  • 22,500 from Colorado; and
  • 21,500 from Illinois.

However, 1.7% of California’s population emigrated to another state in 2016, which amounts to 657,700 individuals exiting the state. The states receiving the most former California residents in 2016 were:

  • 69,900 people who moved to Texas;
  • 64,800 people who moved to Arizona;
  • 51,500 people who moved to Washington;
  • 45,500 people who moved to Nevada;
  • 43,800 people who moved to Oregon;
  • 28,400 people who moved to Florida;
  • 27,000 people who moved to Colorado;
  • 23,000 people who moved to Utah;
  • 22,700 people who moved to New York

Editor’s note — Within the U.S., more people moved out of California than moved in. However, California netted 42,600 individuals from other countries in 2016. When considering both types of immigration, the total population increase via migration was 33,500 new residents.

The demographics of those entering

What is the average person moving to California from another state like? Recent years have seen slightly older and more educated residents entering the state.

The median age of a new California resident who moved from another state was 28.6 years in 2016. Contrast this with a decade ago, when the median age was 27.1.

Of those who moved into California from another state in 2016 who were 25 and older:

  • 6% had less than a high school degree;
  • 14% had a high school degree;
  • 24% had some college;
  • 31% had a bachelor’s degree; and
  • 27% had a graduate or professional degree.

This recent migrant population is significantly more educated than the typical California adult already living here. For instance, only 12% of the total California population aged 25 and over has a graduate or professional degree, compared to 27% of residents moving to California in this same age group in 2016.

This more educated and experienced generation of migrants points to the desirability of the state’s healthy jobs market. These jobs are concentrated in California’s coastal cities, especially the Bay Area, Los Angeles and San Diego.

Related article:

Jobs move real estate

The demographics of those leaving

What about the former residents who left California in 2016?

Consider United Mover’s 2016 study of moving patterns. The study found the number one reason for those moving out-of-state was a job — 47% of respondents. However, of those moving into the state, 68% moved for a job, thus the state’s employment market is more likely to bring people into the state than out of it.

On the other hand, California is losing residents in high numbers to states like Arizona, Florida and Nevada — states popular with the retired population.

The United Mover’s study found that young adults were almost twice as likely to move into California rather than out of the state. On the other hand, in the 65 and older group, 14% move into California while 24% moved out of California for other states. The remainder moved within state lines.

Given California’s high cost of living, it’s no surprise retirees may prefer to move somewhere where their retirement income stretches further. Sunny states with no income tax, like Florida, Texas and Nevada, are all attractive places for retirees to move.

How to use this information

Looking at the data, it’s clear more people move to other states than enter each year, not great news for housing. But real estate professionals need to look to the positives for direction.

The first positive is that those coming into the state are more productive members of the economy than those leaving. Highly educated, working adults are moving to California each year, and real estate professionals should take notice by capturing the business they bring.

Additionally, since the number of international migrants continues to increase each year, agents can seek to grow their clientele in their local international community.

Relocation agent is a title real estate agents and brokers can add to their profile to attract more recent arrivals. Growing businesses may want your assistance in relocating their new hires from out-of-state, so reaching out to these businesses is a good start. Another way to grow business as a relocation agent is becoming active on online forums where those moving from out-of-state are looking for information on the community.

Current relocation agents: how do you grow your client base? Share your experience with other California agents in the comments below!