California is again high on scorecards you don’t want to be on — states with the largest shares of exits by moving vans.

Three van lines have released their annual studies of interstate moving patterns, and for 2020 California found itself ranked among the leaders for its share of outbound relocations greater than inbound — third-worst by North American Van Lines results; fifth-worst by United Van Lines; and ninth-worst by Atlas Van Lines.

When my trusty spreadsheet averaged the three studies it showed 60% of California moves in 2020 were leaving the state vs. 58% in 2019 and 56% in 2018. Moves by van, a costly relocation option, are seen as indicators of where families with above-average finances are headed.

Note that the number of relocations, at least according to two van lines, dropped last year as the pandemic raised economic and health questions nationwide. United and Atlas published their counts of California moves and the stats show combined departures down 10% vs. 2019 while arrivals fell 20%.

California’s poor showing with van moves is the latest relocation data suggesting coronavirus further soured some residents on the state.

For example, state data says 261,084 more residents left the state than came from elsewhere in the U.S. in the year ended July 1. That’s up from 236,793 in net domestic outmigration the year before and 169,236 in 2018.

That growing migration gap is a key reason why California’s population grew by just 21,000 in the year ended in July. That 0.05% growth rate is the slowest in California records that date to 1900.

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Then look at California trends by van line, what states also had high outflows — and which ones were most attractive to this mobile crowd (think Idaho) …

North American

In California, 64% of the moves were outbound compared to 65% for 2019 and 64% in 2018.

Biggest outflows: Illinois at 69% and New York at 65% were above California, followed by New Jersey at 64% and Maryland at 61%.

Biggest inflows: Idaho at 70%; then Arizona at 64%; South Carolina at 63%; Tennessee at 63%; and North Carolina at 61%.


In California, 59% of the moves were outbound compared to 57% for 2019 and 54% in 2018.

Biggest outflows: New Jersey at 70%; then New York at 67%; Illinois at 66%; and Connecticut at 63%.

Biggest inflows: Idaho at 70%; then South Carolina at 64%; Oregon at 63%; and South Dakota and Arizona at 62%.


In California, 57% of the moves were outbound compared to 52% for 2019 and 50% in 2018.

Biggest outflows: New York at 66%; then Illinois at 63%; New Jersey at 61%; Louisiana at 60%; and West Virginia at 60%.

Biggest inflows: Idaho at 66%; then North Carolina at 65%; Maine at 63%; New Hampshire at 62%; and Alabama at 61%.

Let me add one caveat to the van outflow data. California’s population problem is hardly departures.

U.S. Census Bureau stats show between 2017 and 2019, a total of 1.3 million Californians moved to other states — exits equal to roughly 3% of the state’s almost 40 million residents. Only three states had smaller departures rates per capita.

The same U.S. stats revealed 981,000 came to California from other states in those three years — an 0.8% per-capita attraction rate, the worst score in the nation.


By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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