As more and more Californians move elsewhere amid rising housing and living costs, the Golden State is on track to lose a seat in Congress for the first time in history.
According to U.S. Census Bureau population estimates released on Monday, approximately 203,000 people moved out of California between 2018 and 2019 – with the bulk of them heading to other western states like Arizona, Texas and Colorado, where the cost of life is less pricey.
If these numbers hold true in next year’s census count, California would see its number of seats in the House of Representatives drop from 53 to 52. While the loss of one seat would do little to diminish California’s influence in the lower chamber of Congress, there is the possibility that the states Californians are migrating to could potentially pick up a seat – a move that could alter both the local and federal political map.
“It’s got a lot to do with dispersion from California to the rest of the West,” William Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told the Los Angeles Times. “Arizona, Texas and Colorado are all big destinations for California migrants, and they all are gaining seats.”
Texas has been the biggest recipient over the last few years of the exodus of Californians fleeing soaring living costs and rising taxes, with a recent study finding that 63,175 Californians moved to the Lone Star State in 2017.
The dispersal from California due to the skyrocketing standard of living – and a continuing shift toward the political left – has even given rise to a cottage industry of companies helping conservative Californians resettle in Texas.
“Leaving California is like leaving a bad relationship,” Paul Chabot, the founder of the company Conservative Move, told Fox News. “When you’re gone, you can see all the problems much more clearly.”
The figures from the Census Bureau suggest that Texas could pick up as many as three congressional seats following the 2020 census. Florida stands to gain two seats, while Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon each stand to gain a seat.
Along with California, states including Alabama, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia are all projected to lose seats in Congress.
California and Texas – the country’s two most populous states and the sixth and 10th largest economies in the world, respectively – have for decades offered two opposing views of the United States.
Lawmakers in Sacramento and Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom believe that higher taxes help fund public universities and a slew of social services in the state, while Texas legislators and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott believe that lower taxes and fewer regulations free residents to reach their full potential. The two states also have taken vastly differing stances on pressing issues ranging from immigration to climate change.
While some conservative strategists see the migration of Californians to red states like Texas and Arizona as a boost for Republicans, there is still the possibility that the population growth in urban hotbeds likes Austin and Phoenix will offset any gains and could potentially turn once solidly red states purple in the near future.
The Census Bureau study found that, overall, the U.S. population grew from 2018 to 2019 by almost a half percent, or about 1.5 million people, with the population standing at 328 million this year. That's the slowest growth rate in the U.S. since 1917 to 1918, when the nation was involved in World War I, according to Frey.
Regionally, the South saw the greatest population growth from 2018 to 2019, increasing 0.8 percent due to natural increase and people moving from others parts of the country. The Northeast had a population decrease for the first time this decade, declining 0.1 percent due primarily to people moving away.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.