18 Reasons Why People Are Leaving California with No Return

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The current exodus from California shows that even its sunny beaches and Hollywood glamour are no longer enough to enchant residents, with various reasons forcing many to leave the Golden State without looking back.

The High Cost of Living in California


Living in California doesn’t come cheap. With monthly expenses averaging around $4,500 and a population of 39.2 million, California is not only the most populous state but also the largest economy in the U.S. 

However, its cost of living index stands at a hefty 149.9, outstripping the national average by nearly 50%. This high cost of living is pushing many to reconsider their stay in the Golden State.

Alarming Rise in Crimes


Rising crimes are sparking alarm across California. The state, ranking 17th in national violent crime rates, witnessed a 6.1% increase in violent offenses and a 6.2% uptick in property crimes between 2021 and 2024. Predominantly, these crimes involve property offenses like burglary and pickpocketing. 

Additionally, firearm-related homicides in California soared by 40.6% in 2020, with assaults involving firearms climbing by 29% compared to the previous year. These disturbing trends contribute to a growing sense of insecurity among residents.

Rising Taxation


California holds the dubious distinction of having the nation’s highest individual income tax rates alongside considerable sales tax burdens. While long-time homeowners enjoy relatively low property tax rates, newer residents face a starkly higher tax burden. 

Additionally, the state imposes income taxes on all retirement income, excluding only Social Security. These fiscal policies, which increasingly strain the budgets of Californians, are driving discussions about the sustainability of residing in such a high-tax environment.

Chronic Traffic Jams 


Traffic congestion is a notorious issue in California, affecting major metropolitan areas and also those living outside of them. According to a study by INRIX, three California cities rank among the top fifteen in the U.S. for the worst traffic congestion, with Los Angeles drivers spending over 100 hours a year stuck in traffic. 

This persistent problem is adding to the growing list of frustrations for residents and commuters, making the allure of California life less bearable.

The Highest Unemployment Rate


California now grapples with the highest unemployment rate in the nation, hitting 5.3% in February. This troubling statistic follows revelations that job growth in this densely populated state was significantly lower last year than earlier estimates suggested. 

Given these economic challenges, coupled with the high cost of living, it’s understandable why many are questioning their future in California and considering relocation as a viable option.

Poor Education


Despite targeted efforts, California continues to struggle in meeting the educational and personal needs of its students. The 2024 California Children’s Report Card by Children Now grades the state poorly, highlighting a lack of progress in supporting positive outcomes for kids. 

Ted Lempert, president of Children Now, emphasizes in the report that economic and educational disparities have not only persisted but in some instances worsened, signaling a critical area of concern for the state’s future.

Health Care Costs and Medical Debt


The cost of healthcare is proving too high for many Californians, with 53% admitting to skipping or postponing medical care due to financial constraints in the past year—a figure that escalates to 74% among those with low incomes. This neglect has worsened health conditions for more than half of those affected. 

Additionally, nearly 40% of Californians bear medical debt, with over half of lower-income individuals affected, highlighting the severe financial and health crises many face in the state.

Concerning Political Scene

Illustration, Image credit: Depositphotos

Once celebrated as a land of liberty and opportunity, California’s current political scene paints a different picture. With state mandates ranging from requiring gender-neutral toy sections in stores to controversial reparations and speech regulations, the definition of ‘freedom’ in California is increasingly contested. 

These measures, aimed at promoting inclusivity and environmental conservation, have sparked debate over whether they actually enhance or restrict personal freedoms and quality of life.

Costly Grocery 


In 2024, California ranks among the most expensive states for groceries, with average weekly expenses reaching $297.72. 

Specific cities like Riverside and San Francisco report even higher averages, making the cost of basic necessities a significant financial burden for many living in these areas.

Heat Waves


California is bracing for more frequent and intense heat waves along with drier summers. In warmer conditions, smog formation accelerates, posing significant health risks, particularly for vulnerable groups such as infants, children, and the elderly. 

Moreover, sea levels are projected to rise up to eight feet over the next century, compounding the state’s environmental challenges.

Expensive Housing Market


California stands as one of the largest and most expensive states in the U.S. to live in. According to the American Communities Survey by the Census Bureau, the median monthly mortgage cost in the state is $2,673. 

Furthermore, a poll by the California Community indicates that four in ten Californians are contemplating moving out of state due to the high costs of living, despite their affection for the state. This financial strain is the primary motivator for residents considering relocation.

Sky-High Gasoline Prices


As of April 3, 2024, California recorded the highest gasoline prices in the U.S., with a gallon of regular gas costing approximately $5.15—$1.5 more than the national average of $3.55. 

This marked California as the only state with average gas prices soaring above five dollars, further straining the budgets of its residents and impacting their daily commuting decisions.

Shallow Stereotypes


While it may seem minor compared to life-threatening issues, the perceived shallowness and emphasis on appearances in California drive some residents to seek deeper connections elsewhere. 

The stereotype of superficiality (although not universally applicable) resonates with many who desire more meaningful community interactions, prompting them to relocate to places that potentially offer a richer social fabric.

Poor Mental Health Services


California’s mental health system is under severe pressure, as evidenced by this year’s findings from the CHCF poll. Over half of the respondents (52%) encountered difficulties in securing a mental health care provider who accepts their insurance. 

Moreover, 55% faced unreasonably long wait times for mental health services. The need for improvements in treating serious mental illnesses is recognized by 67% of Californians, with 81% considering it a critical health policy priority.



Wildfires, a recurrent danger in California, are expected to grow in both frequency and severity due to climate change. 

Not only do these fires threaten properties and public safety, but they also deteriorate air quality by releasing large amounts of particulates into the air. 

The Necessity of Owning a Car 


California’s vast expanse and inadequate public transportation system necessitate owning a car, especially for commuting to work or visiting destinations like the wine country. 

However, not everyone can afford the cost of a vehicle, and even for those who can, the relentless traffic jams diminish the appeal of car ownership, adding another layer of complexity to daily life in the state.

Businesses Are Exiting California


A staggering 86% of California business owners report an increase in local crime, with 67% considering relocating their operations out of the state, according to recent findings from the Freedom Economy Index by RedBalloon and PublicSq. 

Living in an increasingly unsafe environment is not conducive to business operations, prompting concerns that California might become devoid of key businesses essential for a thriving economy.

Escalating Homelessness Crisis

Illustration. Image credit: Shutterstock

Homelessness in Orange County has surged by 28% over the past two years, with current figures showing 7,322 individuals living on the streets or in shelters—a significant increase from the 2022 count. These statistics stem from the Point in Time count, a federally mandated survey conducted biennially in late January by volunteers. 

The growing number of homeless individuals highlights the ongoing challenges the region faces in providing adequate support and housing.

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Kate Smith, a self-proclaimed word nerd who relishes the power of language to inform, entertain, and inspire. Kate's passion for sharing knowledge and sparking meaningful conversations fuels her every word.