With miles of coastline, soaring mountain peaks, and a notoriously sunny climate, California has earned a reputation as an idyllic paradise. But residents of the Golden State might disagree—between high state income taxes, increasing housing costs, and other compelling socioeconomic factors, large numbers of Californians are leaving the Golden State for greener pastures in other states.
Where do Californians move to? We’re back with an updated list of the top 10 states Californians moved to in 2017. Here’s a preview:
This year, we’re comparing each state to California based on four criteria:
- Cost of living
- Climate and geography
Here are some of the highlights about each of the ten states we uncovered during our comparison:
Average annual temperature: 73.2°
|Coldest climate||Coldest climate Idaho
Average annual temperature: 46.4°
|Most precipitation||North Carolina
Average annual precipitation: 61.33”
|Least precipitation||Least precipitation Nevada
Average annual precipitation: 8.31”
|Highest cost of living||New York, NY
$7,825 per month
|Lowest cost of living||Boise, ID
$3,550 per month
|Highest house price||Highest house price New York, NY
|Lowest house price||Jacksonville, FL, and Houston, TX
|Highest rent||New York, NY||43.4%|
|Lowest rent||Las Vegas, NV||-56.8%|
|Most job growth||Nevada
3.2% job growth
Before we jump into our analysis of each state, let’s start by taking a closer look at California itself.
The State of California
|Estimated median household income||$67,739|
|Estimated median house value||$477,500|
|Median gross rent||$1,315/month|
Cost of living
Nationwide cost of living data is not calculated at the city level. In order to evaluate the cost of living in California and the other states on this list, we looked at the largest city in each state.
Largest City in California: Los Angeles
Estimated population: 3,976,324
Average cost of living per month
|Four person family (not including rent)||$3,605|
|Single person (not including rent)||$999|
|1 bedroom apartment (city center)||$2,120|
|3 bedroom apartment (city center)||$3,890|
Climate and geography
California is home to a diverse array of landscapes, from giant redwood trees and snow-capped mountains to red-rock landscapes and miles of sandy, palm-tree lined beaches. The Golden State also boasts the widest range of elevation in the nation: in Central California, Mount Whitney stretches 14,494 feet tall, making it the highest point of elevation in the Sierra Nevadas and the contiguous United States, and just 85 miles southeast lies Badwater Basin—the lowest point of elevation in North America, lying 282 feet below sea level.
In addition to these extremes, California lays claim to:
- Portions of the Mojave and Colorado deserts
- Stretches of the Coastal and Sierra Nevada Mountains
- Lake Tahoe
- The Colorado River
|FACT: The Colorado River provides 55-65% of southern California’s total supply of irrigation and urban water.|
As a result of the wide range in geographic features, California also has a diverse climate. The state contains some of the hottest and driest areas in the country (Death Valley), while higher elevations see lower temperatures and heavy snowfall.
According to Forbes, California is the 29th best state for business in the country, with a job growth rate of 1.9%.
31 cities in California appear on WalletHub’s 2018 rankings of the best cities for jobs, with San Francisco leading the list in the #4 spot (despite earning the title of “Longest Commute to Work”) and Stockton bringing up the rear in 176th. According to the WalletHub study:
- THE GOOD: San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland, and Fremont all tie for highest monthly average starting salary.
- THE BAD: Fresno and Stockton rank among the worst cities in the nation for number of job opportunities. Stockton also has the highest unemployment rate. In terms of employment growth, Irvine and Santa Clarita were ranked among the worst cities surveyed.
Top industries in California include:
- Tourism and hospitality
Culture and entertainment
Food and drink: From local classics like In-N-Out Burger to top-notch Mexican food, California is a foodie’s paradise. The Golden State also has a massive agricultural economy, producing half of the entire country’s fruits, nuts, and vegetables. California wine country is also world-renowned—it’s the nation’s largest producer of wine, with over 100 varietals.
Arts and culture: California’s cultural roots are rich and diverse, from the starstruck bustle of Los Angeles in the south to the laid back lifestyle of San Francisco in the north. There are also tons of festivals to check out throughout the year, celebrating everything from renaissance fairs to internet cat videos.
Outdoor activities: From skiing to surfing, the Golden State offers something to satisfy any outdoor enthusiast. Cruise down the Pacific Coast Highway—arguably the most beautiful drive in the country—or explore one of the many state and national parks, including Yosemite and Death Valley.
Sports: California is home to more pro sports teams than any other state:
- MLB: Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants
- NFL: Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers
- NBA: Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings
- NHL: Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks
Now that we have a snapshot of what California offers, let’s turn our attention to the top 10 states Californians moved to in 2017.
21,372 people moved to Idaho from California in 2017, pushing Georgia—2016’s 10th most popular choice for Golden State emigrants—off the list.
Why do people move to Idaho?
- COST OF LIVING: Idaho’s cost of living is significantly lower than California—about 38.8% less. Houses are also about 60% cheaper.
- CLIMATE: Idaho is covered from north to south by the Rocky Mountains. As a result, Idaho’s climate exhibits large seasonal differences, with cold winters to pleasantly warm summers.
- EMPLOYMENT: Job opportunities are increasing, with a projected 3.1% increase in job growth according to Forbes.
- CULTURE: There’s lots to do, from Boise’s booming food and nightlife scene to music festivals, outdoor activities (skiing, anyone?), and college sports.
Moving to Idaho? We can help.
9. North Carolina
The Tar Heel state is making its debut on our annual list of the top states Californians move to, welcoming 22,469 ex-Californians in 2017.
Why do people move to North Carolina?
- COST OF LIVING: The cost of living is about 20.5% lower than California. Houses are also significantly cheaper—North Carolina’s median house value is $165,400, compared to $477,500 in California.
- CLIMATE: Thanks to the Tar Heel State’s diverse range of geographic elements, North Carolina’s climate features substantial regional variation—this mountainous coastal state is characterized by humid temperatures, very warm summers, extreme climate events such as hurricanes, and moderately cold winters.
- EMPLOYMENT: North Carolina is the best state in the nation for business, according to Forbes, primarily because the cost of doing business is significantly lower—10.1%—than the national average. Job growth is also strong at 2.1%.
- CULTURE: From exploring the state’s wide range of geography and noshing on North Carolina BBQ to joining in on the heated rivalry between University of North Carolina and Duke, there’s lots to do in the Tar Heel State.
Moving to North Carolina? We can help.
8. New York
New York state moved up our list to the #8 spot in 2017, with 24,982 new residents making their way to New York from California.
Why do people choose to make the move to New York?
- COST OF LIVING: New York is the only state on our list with a higher cost of living than California. It costs just under 35% more—around $7,825 per month—to maintain the same standard of living in New York City as you’d have in Los Angeles. Elsewhere in the state, the cost of living is lower than California’s.
- CLIMATE: The climate is mostly temperate, thanks to the moderating effect of the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes.
- EMPLOYMENT: 10% of the 1,000 largest companies in the country are headquartered in New York City. Household income in the state is projected to grow by 2.8%.
- CULTURE: The bustling lifestyle of New York City is an appealing east-coast alternative to California’s metropolises.
Moving to New York? We can help.
Colorado held steady in the 7th spot in 2017, with 27,014 choosing to make their new home in the Centennial State.
Why do people move to Colorado?
- COST OF LIVING: The cost of living is about 17% lower. The estimated median house value is also about 34% lower.
- CLIMATE: Located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado has the highest average elevation of any state, with over 50 peaks that reach or exceed 14,000 feet. Thanks to its inland location and rapid elevation changes, Colorado experiences a varied climate—some areas of the state see 300 days of sunshine per year.
- EMPLOYMENT: Job opportunities are plentiful—Forbes ranks Colorado as the 8th best state in the country for business, and Colorado Springs in particular has the highest employment growth in the country.
- CULTURE: From epic skiing to sampling one of the over 200 craft brews that originate in the Centennial State, there’s lots to do in Colorado.
Moving to Colorado? We can help.
Florida also ranks in the same position as our 2016 listing, with 30,919 ex-Californians settling down in the Sunshine State in 2017.
Why do people move to Florida?
- COST OF LIVING: It’s a lot cheaper—the cost of living is about 32% less, and houses cost about 58% less than they do in California.
- CLIMATE: With an average annual temperature of 73.2°, the climate can’t be beat.
- EMPLOYMENT: Florida is extremely popular for retirees—the median age in Florida is about 16% higher than California’s—but there are lots of job opportunities as well. According to Forbes, Florida is the 7th best state in the country for business, and 11 cities made WalletHub’s list of the best cities for jobs.
- CULTURE: The Sunshine State has more golf courses than any other state, and with miles of beaches and the nation’s best amusement parks, there’s no shortage of activities for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers of any age
Moving to Florida? We can help.
The Silver State is the 5th most popular choice for emigrating Californians in 2017, with 47,513 ex-Golden Staters making their new home in Nevada.
Why do people move to Nevada?
- COST OF LIVING: The cost of living in Nevada is about 20.5% less, and the estimated median house value is about 50% lower.
- CLIMATE: Nevada is the driest state in the nation, receiving just over half the annual precipitation compared to California.
- EMPLOYMENT: Job prospects are good, with Forbes projecting 3.2% job growth.
- CULTURE: Locals know that there’s way more to Nevada than Sin City. Craft beer lovers will appreciate the 21 breweries located across the state, and there’s no shortage of outdoor activities to enjoy.
Moving to Nevada? We can help.
Oregon moved up the list one spot in 2017, with 50,109 Californians making their new home in the Beaver State.
Why do people move to Oregon?
- COST OF LIVING: The cost of living in Oregon is about 15% lower. The estimated median house value is about half as much as California’s, and rent in Portland (Oregon’s largest city) is 30% lower than in Los Angeles.
- CLIMATE: The climate and geography are similar to California’s, with slightly lower temperatures and slightly more precipitation.
- EMPLOYMENT: Job growth is projected to continue over the next five years, with Moody Analytics ranking the Beaver State as the seventh best in the nation.
- CULTURE: It’s environmentally-friendly, with one of the lowest carbon footprints nationwide, and more Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified “green buildings” per capita than any other state.
Moving to Oregon? We can help.
Maintaining its #3 ranking, the Evergreen State welcomed 52,484 ex-Californians in 2017.
Why do Californians move to Washington?
- COST OF LIVING: Houses are cheaper—the estimated median house value is about 36% lower than California’s.
- CLIMATE: Like Oregon, Washington’s climate varies widely from west to east. West of the Cascades, the Pacific Ocean and the state’s latitude lead to abundant precipitation. The Cascades block precipitation from reaching too far inland, so the eastern part of the state is comparatively dry.
- EMPLOYMENT: Job opportunities are plentiful. Forbes ranked Washington as the 9th best state for business, and as the birthplace of companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Nordstrom, Starbucks, and Boeing, Washington is a hub for innovation.
- CULTURE: There’s a lot to do, from exploring the epic coastline to sampling one of the state’s 284 microbrews or local delicacies at the Pike Place Market in Seattle.
Moving to Washington? We can help.
With 59,223 Californians moving to the Grand Canyon State in 2017, Arizona held on to the #2 spot for a second year.
Why are people moving to Arizona?
- COST OF LIVING: It’s cheaper—the cost of living is about 20.5% less per month, with an estimated median house value that’s about 57% lower than California.
- CLIMATE: The climate—temperatures are slightly higher than California’s, and annual precipitation is slightly lower.
- EMPLOYMENT: Job opportunities are strong, with Forbes projecting that the Grand Canyon State will have the third strongest growth in the country through 2022. Scottsdale is also the best city in the nation for jobs, tying Gilbert and Chandler for the highest median annual income in the nation.
- CULTURE: There’s lots to explore beyond the Grand Canyon—there are innumerable nature preserves and national parks to explore, Sedona wine country rivals California and Oregon’s lush wine-producing regions, and Arizona is home to numerous festivals throughout the year.
Moving to Arizona? We can help.
Texas held on to the #1 position in 2017, with 63,174 ex-Californians choosing to settle down in the Lone Star State.
Why do so many Californians move to Texas?
- COST OF LIVING: The cost of living is about 25% lower, with an estimated median house value that’s nearly 67% lower than California’s. Texas also does not collect a state income tax, and the state sales tax is relatively low.
- CLIMATE: It rains a little more, but it’s also warmer throughout the year.
- EMPLOYMENT: Texas is the 3rd best state in the country for business, according to Forbes, particularly for tech businesses. With Google recently expanding its downtown Austin office and an increasing focus on startup activity, Central Texas is becoming known as a hub for tech, nicknamed Silicon Hills.
- CULTURE: Austin is well-known for its lively music scene, hosting the week-long South by Southwest Film and Music Festival every year in March. Texas also offers numerous opportunities to get active outdoors, the Lone Star State is home to a number of pro sports teams, and of course, BBQ reigns.
Moving to Texas? We can help.
Whether you’re considering leaving California for work, a lower cost of living, or you simply need a change, these ten states are a great starting point for your hunt for a new home:
- New York
- North Carolina