During the Great Depression, some 1.3 million Americans flocked to California from the nation’s heartland. To keep out the so-called Okies, the state enacted a law barring indigent migrants. Los Angeles set up a border patrol on the city limits. John Steinbeck epitomized the migration in his novel, The Grapes of Wrath.
Now the migration has reversed. Over the past two decades, a net 3.4 million individuals have fled California for other states. Most such migrants – like the Joads of the 1930’s – are low to middle income with relatively little education.Typically, they are employed in agriculture, construction, manufacturing, hospitality and, to some extent, natural-resource extraction. Their median household income is $40,000 – two-thirds of the state median – and some 95 per cent earn less than $80,000. Only one in ten has a college degree, compared with 30 per cent of California’s population. And 40 per cent of those fleeing for the heartland are Hispanic.
These households for the most part are fleeing the economic consequences of progressive policies. Zoning laws, favored by liberals to control urban sprawl, have driven up house prices for the well-off, increasing income-based segregation and inequality. Housing in California, on average, is 2.7 times more expensive than in Texas, where progressive policies are rare on the ground.
Progressive labor policies have succeeded in destroying hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs across California. These traditionally were the entry jobs for the Joads of this world. One third of these opportunities no longer exist.
In a sharp reversal of the 1930’s, Texas and the Sun Belt have supplanted California as a magnet for jobs and people, while California has become the nation’s leading jobs’ exporter.
Such reverse migration from progressive to conservative states surely is not a pattern for which the Progressive Movement would like to be remembered.
Hat Tip: Allysia Finley, ‘The Reverse-Joads of Ca;ifornia’, The Wall Street Journal, March 5, 2013