Commentary: If you want to leave, fine. But don’t insult California on the way out

A U-Haul moving truck with people standing outside the white garage door of a home
A rental truck moves people out of their home in Sausalito, Calif., in March 2020.
(Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

To the people leaving California: May the road rise to meet you as you seek better lives in new places. Now, can you please extend some goodwill to those of us who remain?

Several friends and members of my extended family have moved out of this state, so I can understand the factors that drive such decisions. But reasons to leave don’t explain the impulse to insult California on the way out.

New transplants from other states and countries are disproportionately educated, new census data show, discounting the notion of a California ‘brain drain.’

Jan. 18, 2024

More than 800,000 Californians moved away in 2022, and many thousands more left last year. Often, the departees, cash in hand from the sale of their $1-million bungalows, feel the need to express disdain for their home state, and even some anger too.


The urge to rationalize a difficult decision can be powerful, and trading an overpriced 900-square-foot home in L.A. for a mansion in Texas often comes with a big catch: You need to stay indoors half the year and make good use of all that extra, climate-controlled space.

As we watch you — our aging parents, our friends, our neighbors with kids the same age — eye Idaho and Nevada for home listings, we hear the digs against California. Some are subtle, and some less so.

In a reversal from past decades, more college graduates and professionals are moving out of California than coming into it to escape the higher taxes and cost of living.

Dec. 19, 2023

I remember one relative last year who, regaling me with tales of the charming small town he found several states away, said that his neighbors admonished him to not “bring those weird California ways” to his new home.

And which ways would those be? I have a hunch it isn’t California’s low property tax rate and zoning rules that conspire to push up home values so homeowners can sell their houses for a huge profit.

Perhaps it’s our embrace of LGBTQ+ Californians. Or it’s our liberal politics, with the state Republican Party shrunk to irrelevance after its vicious attempt in 1994 to marginalize immigrants with Proposition 187.

Perhaps I’m sensitive because California — and especially Los Angeles — used to be the place people would come. And plenty still move here, especially immigrants. I come from an immigrant family blessed by the working-class riches our state once offered.


The California exodus has slowed but continued since 2020, with the state’s population declining by 0.1% between July 2022 and July 2023, according to new Census Bureau data.

Dec. 22, 2023

But it doesn’t work out for everyone, and I’ve seen people decide to leave without verbally trashing the place.

Take my former neighbors Joe and Shannon. They left L.A. for New England in 2020, one more departure of a family from our block. They explained why the move was right for them and told us something I’ll never forget: This is a great neighborhood, and “you guys belong here.”

California is big, powerful and therefore tempting to disparage. We have 39 million people, Hollywood and Shohei Ohtani. This state is a haven for reproductive and LGBTQ+ rights, but income disparity and the housing crunch are critical problems we have to fix for progressive ideals to match the reality on the ground.

If you must leave California for Texas, Arizona, New England or anywhere else, don’t be a person who trash-talks the home of 39 million people. You don’t hear many new Californians (they exist!) bash Nebraska or Minnesota.

Instead, be a Joe and a Shannon.