Yes, Californians are still moving to Utah. But more Utahns are moving back, too
California has long been a favorite political boogeyman of sorts for prominent Utah leaders. And as the state booms, census data has shown that the largest number of new Utahns do indeed come from the Golden State. About 18,669 of them in 2022, according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau.
“We can look at in-migration to our state by place of birth and fully one in four — greater than one in four — of the people moving to Utah are moving back to their home state,” said Natalie Gochnour of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. “We do see that people go away and come back.”
In total, 26.9% of new Utahns in 2021 were actually born here.
“It's super interesting in our state that we want our children and grandchildren to grow up here,” said Gochnour. “Many Utah households feel that way.”
Utah’s birth rate has been declining since the great recession in 2008. According to the institute’s latest report, titled “The New Utah,” in-migration is now responsible for more of Utah’s population growth than ever before.
The report points to rapid job growth and a strong economy as reasons behind the increase in not only out-of-state migration but migration back to Utah as well. Other less tangible factors could also be driving more people to see Utah as a new home.
“I think it's become a destination because it has a great lifestyle,” said Bay Area resident Keira Halemeyer, who told KUER’s State Street podcast a friend of hers recently moved to Utah. “It's a work-life balance for her. Also, just the outdoor access, quality of life, the great people she’s met.”
The state’s biggest booster, Republican Gov. Spencer Cox, couldn’t agree more.
“People don't move to states where things are falling apart,” Cox said. “People aren't excited about places where there's a terrible lifestyle, where there's a terrible economy. And the fact that Utah is changing tells me that we are doing things the right way.”
It’s worth noting, though, that while Californians are heading to Utah, it isn’t their only destination. By sheer numbers, more people are ditching that state for places like Virginia, Texas and even Utah’s neighbor to the north, Idaho.
Still, for Cox and other state leaders, the question now is “are we willing to continue to do things the right way? Are we willing to invest in our future? Are we willing to look beyond just the next political election?”
At the same time, the influx of new residents from California and other states is exacerbating another issue that “The New Utah” report highlights. The ever-tightening housing market is becoming an economic risk in a fast-growing and prosperous state.