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California drives Texas’ out-of-state population growth during the pandemic

A "Welcome to Texas" sign along eastbound Interstate 40 entering Deaf Smith County from Quay County, New Mexico.
Wikimedia Commons
Experts say most Texas transplants are coming for economic opportunities.

Nearly one of every six people who moved to Texas in 2020 hailed from California, according to a new report from Texas A&M’s Real Estate Research Center. The study finds Californians accounted for 15.2% of all out-of-state residents who relocated to the Lone Star State last year.

California has been Texas’ top origin for U.S. transplants in 19 of the last 20 years. The only exception was 2005, when Hurricane Katrina forced thousands of Louisiana residents to find homes in its neighboring state.

Texas A&M research economist Luis Torres, who co-authored the study, said he was surprised that most movers are coming from Southern California.

“You know, people think it’s people coming from Silicon Valley, San Francisco — those counties — but no, the majority of movers are from Southern California,” he said.

Los Angeles County topped the list of all U.S. counties sending residents to Texas last year, making up 3.1% of the total migration.

Maricopa County in Arizona was second on the county list of most popular origins for Texas transplants. Others in the top 10 included Cook County, Illinois, Clark County, Nevada and El Paso County, Colorado.

In terms of destinations, Torres said, most of the out-of-state newcomers found homes in Texas’ big cities.

“They’re moving basically to the four major [Metropolitan Statistical Areas]. Harris County is the top one, with 10.4% of movers. And then we have Tarrant County, part of Dallas-Fort Worth, Bexar County, Travis County. So if you look at all of them you will see it’s the Texas Triangle,” he said. For Californians, however, Travis County was their top destination in 2020.

Torres said even during the pandemic, most Texas transplants are coming for economic opportunities. “Business friendly policies, less regulations, taxes: all of these things are playing a role,” he said.

Joseph Leahy anchors morning newscasts for NPR's statewide public radio collaborative, Texas Newsroom. He began his career in broadcast journalism as a reporter for St. Louis Public Radio in 2011. The following year, he helped launch Delaware's first NPR station, WDDE, as an afternoon newscaster and host. Leahy returned to St. Louis in 2013 to anchor local newscasts during All Things Considered and produce news on local and regional issues. In 2016, he took on a similar role as the local Morning Edition newscaster at KUT in Austin, before moving over to the Texas Newsroom.