Californians’ Migration to Texas Looks Like the Dot-Com Rush in Reverse

Californians are finding plenty of reasons to move to Texas (Tim Patterson/Wikimedia).

In 2002, we moved from Northern California back to Arlington after a two-year stay. The Bay Area enticed us to work for a San Francisco newspaper and be part of the dot-com boom.

But Texas’ identity brought us back. On a visit to Texas, we sat in the Grapevine Mills mall food court awaiting our return flight to California. While waiting, we saw all the Texas motif in the mall and realized we missed the place.

So, we moved back.

Today, Californians are moving to Texas in droves — not because they crave the Texas motif or humidity. Likely, the reasons are a more affordable housing market, a robust employment sector, Texas’ lack of income tax, and quality barbecue. (I might have made up that last one, but it was one of my reasons). Affordability is one of the reasons Elon Musk decided to move Tesla’s headquarters from Fremont, Calif., to Austin.

In a recent study, STORAGECafé set out to identify the 25 most popular routes for people leaving California for Texas. STORAGECafé, an online platform that provides storage unit listings across the nation, looked into the latest county-to-county migration from the 2019 U.S. Census.

The takeaway: All major migration routes result in gains for Californias in terms of both home prices and square footage. That’s not breaking news, but some interesting numbers emerged from the data.

In its study, STORAGECafé identified trends in the Dallas-Fort Worth market:

  • More than 23,800 Californians relocated to Dallas, Tarrant, Collin, and Denton counties in 2019 alone. Los Angeles County was the main supplier of new residents, followed by San Diego and Orange counties.
  • A typical home in the D-FW market is 52 percent cheaper than in Los Angeles County, resulting in a list price gap of $438K. Homes in Collin County are 44 percent cheaper than in Orange County and 54 percent bigger (2,692 square feet vs. 1,762).
  • Living space is also larger in D-FW specifically with homes offering an additional 650 square feet of living space than Los Angeles County.
  • The unemployment rate is much lower here—5.8 percent vs. over 10 percent in Los Angeles. In Collin County, it’s 5.1 percent.
  • From LA, Angelenos’ favorite destinations in Texas are Harris, Dallas, Travis, Collin, Tarrant, Bexar, and Denton counties, in that order.
  • The California-to-Texas moving trend has been going on for more than a decade with almost 690,000 Californians relocating to Texas since 2020, according to Census data.

“I think there’s no question that the main driver is housing prices in California,” William Fulton, Rice University director at the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, said in the study. “When housing prices in California go up, so does migration to Texas. When housing prices in California go down, migration to Texas goes down as well.”

We’ve seen something similar, only in reverse. At the end of the 20th century, Texans (including myself) were moving to California because of the exciting dot-com boom in Silicon Valley, a digital gold rush with the promise of high wages.

In the past year, the pandemic created a dynamic in which tech engineers didn’t have to be on-site. This meant you can log in to work in Texas and do your job virtually for a California company. Developers and home builders are taking this into account as they create working spaces in today’s residential developments.

“Austin has established itself as a Texas tech island, pulling businesses and their employees from California,” Christie Batson, University of Nevada, Las Vegas associate professor of sociology, said in the study. “California movers get a city culture comparable to San Francisco without the exorbitant rents, metropolitan overcrowding, and intense reliability on public transportation.”

This Texodus migration will have its drawbacks. In a social and political context, we’re hearing “Don’t California My Texas.” But as long as we’re seeing fundamental quality-of-life reasons to move to a place that has economic advantages, it’s going to continue.

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