19 Reasons Why Young People Are Moving Away From California

On the surface, California seems like an ideal place to live for anyone, with stunning natural beauty, breathtaking beaches, lively cities, and plenty of cultural opportunities. But California isn’t for everyone. This article compiles 19 reasons young people might find the Golden State far less golden than it sounds.

Exorbitant Living Costs

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Young Californians face huge challenges earning enough money to live; property prices and rents have skyrocketed alongside steep rises in the cost of utilities. Business Insider reveals that, in 2021, the median home price in California reached $800,000, far above the national average.

Fierce Competition

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California has a highly competitive job market full of young professionals vying for the best jobs, making it difficult for young people to find work, particularly in certain over-saturated sectors. The Orange County Register says that it is the 2nd most difficult state to find a job in nationwide.


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Many young people are tired of the nightmarish traffic situation in California’s biggest cities. With roadways unable to cope with the number of vehicles (especially at peak times), long commutes and stressful travel have become commonplace. According to the LA Times, Los Angeles is one of the most congested cities in the entire US.


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Space is a big problem in California, as too many people compete for limited space and resources, severely impacting their personal happiness and comfort. Making matters worse, The Mercury News states that housing development is hampered by overly strict development laws despite the desperate need for more homes.

High Taxes

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TurboTax reveals that the income tax rate in California is the highest in the US, at 13.3%. For young professionals starting their careers in the state, excessively high taxes can seriously reduce disposable income and make it difficult for them to afford both living expenses and day-to-day luxuries.

Poor Air Quality

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Given the traffic congestion, it won’t be surprising to learn that air pollution is a problem in Californian cities. IQAir reported that California has one of the worst air quality ratings of any state, with air pollution in places like Bass Lake even being deemed “hazardous” to life. Many young people living in such cities are understandably concerned for their health.

Water Scarcity

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The Guardian informs us that, in April 2023, over 100 million Californians were negatively affected by inadequate water supplies. The state’s ongoing water crisis, exacerbated by unpredictable winter storms causing summer droughts, has left many people without sufficient water for things like recreation and gardening.

Lack of Affordable Education

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With the average cost of attending a Californian public university among the highest in the United States, many young people seek higher education in more affordable states at colleges providing education of comparable quality. For many, following their career aspirations isn’t financially possible if they stay in California.

Natural Disasters

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The Golden State is regularly threatened by natural disasters and extreme weather, such as earthquakes, mudslides, wildfires, and droughts. National Geographic says that California has experienced a worrying spate of such events over recent years, causing anxiety for young and old alike regarding personal safety and property damage.

Income Inequality

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With levels of inequality among the highest in America, California’s vast wealth gap can be disheartening and off-putting for many young people, particularly for those wanting to live in a fairer, more equal society. For those from the lowest income groups, the difference between their wages and the ‘fat cat’ CEOs can be too much to bear.

Housing Shortages

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The state needs an estimated 3.5 million new housing units to meet housing demands by 2025. With overcrowding already a problem and painfully restrictive limitations on new builds, it’s unlikely that such an unrealistic demand will be met. Many young people will be forced to look elsewhere for somewhere to live.


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Taking dilapidated, low-cost areas and turning them into high-profit, high-income hubs may be great for the economy, but it doesn’t leave students and less affluent 20-somethings with anywhere affordable to live. In some areas like LA and San Diego, UCLA reports that over 50% of all low-income neighborhoods have been gentrified in recent years.

Limited Affordable Healthcare

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With high living expenses and a competitive job market, securing enough money for medical insurance can be challenging for young Californians in particular. Indeed, approximately 2.7 million state residents under the age of 65 were uninsured in 2020.

High Competition for Entertainment Jobs

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While the Californian job market is a tough nut to crack in general, aspiring artists and entertainers face near-impossible competition for jobs in the acting and music industries. With places like Hollywood attracting young hopefuls from all over the world, the chance of getting noticed in the crowd is ‘slim to none.’


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The California State Auditor states that “California has the largest homeless population in the nation,” with approximately 161,548 people experiencing homelessness in 2020 alone. Many more progressive young people aren’t happy living alongside such obvious signs of moral decay and social callousness.

Struggles for College Graduates

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Even those young people who have managed to fund and complete higher education struggle to afford to live in California, with high levels of student loan debt and a competitive job market making post-study life challenging for many. It’s not unusual for young graduates to have a student debt of over $20,000.

Rising Cannabis Tax

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Young adults who were attracted to California’s legalized cannabis have recently complained of the state’s rising taxes on marijuana and associated products. Even young people using cannabis medicinally (to treat anxiety, for example) aren’t exempt from such escalating costs.

Poor Education System

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While not the worst in the US, the California state school system has been criticized for being underfunded, resulting in poor teaching in inadequate classrooms crowded with too many students. Young people wanting a better education or young families with children consider this a compelling reason to relocate. 

Water Shortages

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Because of regular droughts and wildfires, water shortages are common. The California Department of Water Resources says that limiting water use is necessary to preserve water for vital purposes like drinking and sanitation. This enforced conversation has impacted the lifestyles and happiness of all residents, young people included.

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