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The new Californian is single and looking for the Golden State dream

”Survey says” looks at various rankings and scorecards judging geographic locations while noting these grades are best seen as a mix of artful interpretation and data.

Buzz: A new Californian is likely single, taking a shot at what’s left of the pricey California dream.

Source: My trusty spreadsheets analyzed taxpayer migration data from the IRS for 2020, the pandemic era’s first year. The research looked at household adjusted gross income by tax return and how many people were accounted for on that filing — taxpayer and/or spouse or dependents.

Note: These numbers do not track non-filers, a group that tends to be poorer. But taxpayer stats do hint at where paychecks and retirement funds are headed.


The average taxpaying American household making an interstate move in 2020 had 1.83 people.

Now consider federal tax returns from Californians new to the state. These households were 10% smaller, averaging 1.66 people. Only five states had smaller move-in households: the District of Columbia at 1.35, Massachusetts and New York at 1.5 and Vermont and Rhode Island at 1.6.

These figures suggest California had an above-average inflow of singles and far fewer inbound couples or families with children. That’s not terribly surprising considering the state’s higher cost of living.

Meanwhile, the size of an ex-California household was roughly the national norm — 1.8 people per household departed, a mid-range No. 27 rank.


This is just more evidence that California, as a place to live, is not very popular with fellow Americans — even if its statewide average income is $101,000, the nation’s sixth-highest.

Just look at the finances of who’s coming and going.

The average adjustable gross income for new Californians in 2020 was $83,100, No. 20 among the states. That’s not family-friendly kind of money.

Wyoming drew the biggest income earners from anywhere in the U.S. at $133,700. Next was Florida at $121,800, Connecticut at $119,100, New Jersey at $98,800 and New Hampshire at $96,000.

Lowest? Mississippi at $54,000, North Dakota at $54,500, Oklahoma and West Virginia at $54,900 and Kentucky at $58,200.

Next, consider the 2020 incomes of exiting Californians.

The households who left made an average $105,100, No. 5 behind Connecticut at $117,600, New York at $114,400 and New Jersey at $107,700.

Lowest exit incomes were found in Mississippi at $51,000, Idaho at $54,300, Montana at $54,700, West Virginia at $57,000 and Louisiana at $58,300.

Now ponder the resulting income differences.

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