California Demographics Shift, Thanks to 'Inland Empire'

'Wall Street Journal' explores exodus of middle class families from coast to 'Inland Empire'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 27, 2021 4:05 PM CST
California Demographics Shift, Thanks to 'Inland Empire'
The Inland Empire of Southern California, with houses stretching from mountains to desert.   (Getty/Tim Gray)

It's not too much of a stretch to use the word "exodus." The Wall Street Journal digs into census figures out of California to highlight a fast-moving demographic shift: In broad strokes, middle-class families are fleeing the too-expensive coast. Their destination? Many are landing in the region known as the Inland Empire, still in California but shading eastward toward Nevada and Arizona. Think hills and mountains instead of beach. This area, broadly encompassing the San Bernardino-Riverside metropolitan area, is home to "the biggest movement of people in the most populous state in America," write Christine Mai-Duc and Paul Overberg. As a result, the coastal area is increasingly made up of a polar-opposite mix: the affluent who can afford the ever-exploding house prices or families who are too poor to move.

In terms of numbers, the Inland Empire tied the Phoenix area last year for the biggest population gains from migration in the US. But while the gains in Phoenix slowed down amid the pandemic, they sped up in the Inland Empire by a factor of 50%. All told, about 250,000 people moved there. The story explores the tradeoffs. The median price of a home is $830,000 in Los Angeles County and $1.85 million in San Francisco, compared to $570,000 in Riverside County. Not cheap, but families can get more space for less money in neighborhoods that provide room to roam (for now). They lose the amenities of big-city living, but also the notorious traffic jams. Of course, this exodus also means that housing prices in the Inland Empire are beginning to surge as well, as longtime residents sell and move away (often to other states) to accommodate the new arrivals. (Read the full story.)

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