Today, according to the Social Science Research Council, California now has the greatest income inequality in the nation, suggestive of a disappearing middle class. In the past many people dreamt of moving here. Now it attracts less newcomers per capita than virtually any state; only four states — Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Illinois — fared worse in bringing in new taxpayers.
Today, domestic net out-migration, even after declining in the early years of the recession, has more than doubled between 2013 and 2016. Even worse, according to a recent UC Berkeley study, over a quarter of Californians are considering a move, half of them out of the state, with the strongest proclivity found among people under the age of 50. And contrary to some progressive commentary, those leaving are not necessarily old or losers; according to IRS data, out-migrant households had a higher average income than those households that stayed, or of households that moved in to the state.
Rather than serving primarily as a role model, California today should be seen as much a cautionary tale. We certainly produce great wealth, but also far too much poverty. To be sure, California is now home to four of the 15 richest people on the planet and 70 percent of the 56 billionaires under 40; the Bay Area remains the most prodigious producer of high wage tech-related jobs.