That heavy traffic on Los Angeles freeways may represent something more than the daily commute.
More Los Angeles County residents moved elsewhere in California in the past year than the entire populations of 39 of the state’s counties.
Moreover, for the first time since records have been kept, Los Angeles--long a magnet for people from Back East--saw net migration to other states.
The statistics, gleaned from the state’s annual report of driver’s license address changes, do not take into consideration births or foreign immigrants, which have made Los Angeles County’s overall population soar during the past decade.
But demographers deem the Department of Motor Vehicles data the most detailed public accounting of population shifts within the state and between California and other states. The statistics also tend to freeze-frame migration trends that can have marked effects on the region’s economic and social fabric.
“More established middle-class families tend to be moving to the suburbs,” said state Department of Finance research manager John Malson. “The people replacing them in Los Angeles tend to be mostly from overseas or Latin America.”
DMV statistics show that 231,959 Los Angeles drivers reported moving to other counties and another 84,973 to other states in the yearlong period that ended June 30. Each driver, population researchers say, represents an actual movement of about 1.5 people.
Those who left were partially offset by new arrivals from other counties and states, but the net loss in Los Angeles to other counties and states was a record 105,672 drivers. The net loss has grown each year since at least 1986, when Los Angeles lost 14,367 drivers in the state’s annual study.
When people leave Los Angeles, the statistics show they go most often to nearby counties. Almost 50,000 Los Angeles County drivers changed their address to San Bernardino County last year--31,004 more than made the reverse move. The other biggest net migrations from Los Angeles County were, in order, to the counties of Riverside, Orange, San Diego and Ventura.
Los Angeles lost residents to every county in the state except Lassen. While 402 Los Angeles drivers moved to the sparsely settled northeastern California county, 468 Lassenites moved here.
As befits the popular media image, some Los Angeles families apparently sold their homes for a killing and moved to the more tranquil, and less costly, northwest states of Oregon and Washington.
About 12,900 Los Angeles residents transferred their driver’s licenses to the Northwest in the year covered by the records, contrasted with about 4,900 drivers who made the reverse move.
But the state most popular with fleeing Angelenos was Nevada. About 9,300 drivers reported moving to Nevada, and only 2,104 went the other direction.
In all, the DMV statistics showed a net loss of 2,120 Los Angeles County drivers to other states last year. It was the first time the tide was found to be flowing out of Los Angeles, which as recently as five years ago had a net gain of 36,863 drivers from other states.
“People used to come out here (from across the country) with dreams of a whole new life in Southern California,” said Cal State Northridge geography professor James P. Allen. “I don’t think there are many people who think that way now. It’s difficult with housing prices and employment problems.
“Very few are dreaming they can renew their lives in a nearly magical way, the way Los Angeles used to be a destination for people who had dreams,” Allen said.
For California as a whole, there were other eye-openers in the statistics. The entire state added just 36,417 new drivers from other states. In 1988-89, California had a net gain of 159,152 from elsewhere in the United States.
The largest net influxes to California were from the recession-wracked states of New York, 11,271; Massachusetts, 10,861, and Texas, 10,776.
Younger drivers continued to be the most strongly attracted to California. Of those age 18 to 24, the net influx was 47,949.
Older Californians departed more quickly than they were replaced. The net loss of drivers age 45 and older was 31,353.
San Diego County was the destination of choice for drivers who moved into California from other states. San Diego had a net increase of 10,484 drivers, followed by San Francisco with 6,796.
Tiny Alpine County--population 1,113 in the 1990 census--was the state’s stablest last year, suffering a net loss of five drivers. In all, 33 Alpine drivers moved out of state--18 of them to Nevada--and 28 out-of-staters moved in, including one from New Jersey, one from Maryland and 19 from Nevada.
On the Move
Driver’s license address changes reflect a slowing in the historic migration by U.S. residents into California, and Los Angeles County in particular. The numbers cover moves between California and other states in the year ended June 30, 1991.
Because the statistics do not count children and other non-drivers, they do not show the full extent of migration. But demographers regard the address changes as a good indicator of population shifts. CALIFORNIA-BOUND
Migration into California from the other 49 states has slowed appreciably, based on driver’s license statistics.
YEAR DRIVERS MOVING DRIVERS MOVING NET CHANGE INTO STATE OUT OF STATE 1990-91 376,096 339,679 36,417 1988-89 436,949 277,797 159,152 1986-87 339,739 224,249 115,490
MOVEMENT BETWEEN OTHER STATES AND L.A. COUNTY
For the first time, Los Angeles County saw a net loss--2,210 drivers--to other states. The most net migration out of Los Angeles in the year ended June 30 was to these five states:
STATE LEFT MOVED TO NET CHANGE L.A. COUNTY L.A. COUNTY Nevada 9,364 2,104 -7,260 Washington 7,632 3,131 -4,501 Oregon 5,303 1,836 -3,467 Arizona 8,237 4,851 -3,386 Florida 5,901 4,408 -1,493
L.A. County gained more drivers than it lost from these top five states:
STATE MOVED OUT MOVED IN NET CHANGE New York 4,170 8,067 +3,897 Massachusetts 738 3,468 +2,730 Texas 6,491 8,428 +1,937 New Jersey 1,542 3,429 +1,887 Michigan 1,690 3,104 +1,414
MOVEMENT FROM LOS ANGELES TO OTHER COUNTIES
Los Angeles County had a net loss of drivers to every California county except Lassen. The top five counties to which Los Angeles drivers moved:
COUNTY MOVED OUT MOVED IN NET CHANGE San Bernardino 48,985 17,981 -31,004 Riverside 27,182 9,017 -18,165 Orange 51,402 34,591 -16,811 San Diego 19,486 12,749 -6,737 Ventura 15,648 10,423 -5,225 All Counties 231,959 128,407 -103,552
SOURCE: State Department of Finance analysis of Department of Motor Vehicles statistics.