[Source: The Sacramento Bee] California exports more than commodities such as movies, new technologies and produce. It also exports truck drivers, cooks and cashiers.
Every year from 2000 through 2015, more people left California than moved in from other states. This migration was not spread evenly across all income groups, a Sacramento Bee review of U.S. Census Bureau data found. The people leaving tend to be relatively poor, and many lack college degrees. Move higher up the income spectrum, and slightly more people are coming than going.
About 2.5 million people living close to the official poverty line left California for other states from 2005 through 2015, while 1.7 million people at that income level moved in from other states – for a net loss of 800,000. During the same period, the state experienced a net gain of about 20,000 residents earning at least five times the poverty rate – or $100,000 for a family of three.
Kiril Kundurazieff, 56, is among the low-income residents who left California. He spent more than a decade working in a small bookstore, then at Target, then at a Verizon call center, in Southern California. After some medical issues that hampered his eyesight, he found himself unemployed in Santa Ana, with monthly rent of about $1,000 in 2012.
“There was really nothing left for me in California,” said Kundurazieff, who also writes a blog about his cats. “The cost of living was high. The rent was high. The job market was debatable.”
Friends in Texas suggested he relocate. He now works at a Walmart in Houston, making a little north of $10 an hour. He works 40 hours a week, riding his bike about 7 miles to work many days. He does not pay state income tax. His rent is just over $500, with utilities.
About the same time that Kundurazieff was leaving, Tamara and Kit Keane were arriving from Oklahoma. Both had been working on their doctorate degrees at Oklahoma universities, Kit in biology and Tamara in education.
The Keanes already knew California. Kit, 34, was born and raised in Sacramento. Tamara, 31, spent most of her life in Southern California. They met at UC Davis about a decade ago.
With graduate degrees, they had options. They liked the cost of living in Oklahoma and bought a two-bedroom house with a backyard for the bargain basement cost of $121,000.
But they wanted to come back to California, for its beauty and to be near family. “We knew coming here, we would have to make a lot more money to live a similar lifestyle,” Tamara Keane said.
After moving back last year, both now work for the Twin Rivers Unified School District as teachers on special assignment. They are expecting a child and recently purchased a three-bedroom house in Hollywood Park for $360,000. Tamara is still working on her Ph.D.; Kit is looking into eventually teaching at the university level. “Teacher salaries are not great,” Tamara Keane said. “But they are enough for us to want to come here.”
Well-paid new arrivals in California enjoy a life that is far out of reach of much of the state’s population. Besides Hawaii and New York, California has the highest cost of living in America.
During the past three years in Sacramento, median rent for a one-bedroom apartment has risen from about $935 a month to $1,230 a month, according to real estate tracking firm Zillow.com. A single mother working 40 hours a week at $15 an hour would spend nearly half of her gross income to afford an apartment at that price. She would pay about 10 percent less for a one-bedroom rental in Houston or Dallas.
Sacramento remains relatively affordable compared to other California markets. Median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles is about $2,270 a month. In San Francisco, $3,700. Without subsidies, those prices are unreachable for a single parent making $15 an hour.
Not surprisingly, the state’s exodus of poor people is notable in Los Angeles and San Francisco counties, which combined experienced a net loss of 250,000 such residents from 2005 through 2015.
The leading destination for those leaving California is Texas, with about 293,000 economically disadvantaged residents leaving and about 137,000 coming for a net loss of 156,000 from 2005 through 2015. Next up are states surrounding California; in order, Arizona, Nevada and Oregon.
All told, California lost about 260,000 economically disadvantaged residents to the 10 states with the lowest cost of living during that time period, compared to a net gain of about 40,000 from the 10 states (other than California) with the highest cost of living.
Losing impoverished residents to other states is better for the state’s economy than losing wealthy residents, some experts said. But they said the migration itself is a symptom of deeper social problems largely related to how expensive California has become.
“Why are people leaving? Economic reasons, the high cost of living, are certainly a part of it,” said Hans Johnson, senior fellow at the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California. “For those people (near the poverty line), California is not viable.”
By some measures, California has the highest poverty rate in the nation.
Poverty is associated with issues ranging from high crime rates to an increased likelihood of health problems. If someone puts most of their money toward rent, it leaves them with less money for hospital bills or essentials – so society steps in and picks up the slack, at a cost.
“We are impacting all other systems,” said Lisa Hershey, executive director of Housing California, a nonprofit that advocates for more affordable housing. Impoverished residents who can’t afford to live in their neighborhood often “end up hospitalized, they end up in prison.”
The choices facing millions of low-income workers trying to rent in California’s urban centers are stark, Hershey and others said. They can commute from far-away locales.
“People are having to move so far away from their jobs – driving two or three hours,” Hershey said.
They can spend a huge portion of their income on rent. Many experts recommend not spending more than a third of gross income on housing. But in California, “We are actually excited to see if people are spending less than 50 percent on housing,” Hershey said.
They can live in a cramped house with others sharing the bills. More than 750,000 California households live in a rental containing more people than rooms, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Finally, they can move to a more affordable area. “This is like the ultimate displacement,” Hershey said. “People are being displaced so quickly not only in our communities but from the whole state.”
Source: The Sacramento Bee
March 5, 2017