Oregon has become the new California

Imagine if a grizzly bear and a beaver squared off in a cage match. It would be a decided mismatch in the bear’s favor.

That’s how interstate competition used to be between California – which prominently features a bear on its state flag – and Oregon – which boasts a two-sided flag, the backside on which appears a beaver.

But the script has been flipped, according to United Van Lines’ annual migration study, which tracked nearly 130,000 interstate moves in 2013. While California continues to lose residents to other states, Oregon is now the nation’s top moving destination.

Oregon boasts much of the same appeal as California, UCLA economist Michael Stoll told CNNMoney, including mild winters, open spaces, and local arts and entertainment scenes. But the Beaver State does not have California’s sky-high cost of living.

For instance, the median price for a single-family home in greater Portland is $285,000, according to Zillow Real Estate Market Reports. In greater San Diego, it’s $468,000; Los Angeles, $522,500; San Francisco, $617,500; and San Jose, $722,500.

Meanwhile, Oregon’s economy is stronger than California’s by several key measures:

  • The Beaver State’s GDP grew by 3.9 percent in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), which ranked third among the 50 states. The Golden State’s GDP increased 3.5 percent, ranking fifth.
  • Oregon’s nonfarm employment grew in 2013 by 2.3 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, tied for fourth in the country. California’s nonfarm employment increased 1.6 percent, tied for 16th in the country.
  • Oregon’s personal disposable income grew by 10.1 percent between 2006 and 2011, according to BEA. California’s grew by 6.3 percent over the same span.

Finally, the Beaver State’s tax regime is less onerous than here in the Golden State.

Kicker law

Indeed, Oregon is one of only five states that has no sales tax. It also is one of only six states that has a so-called “kicker law” on its books, stipulating that when tax collections exceed government forecasts by 2 percent or more, the excess must be returned to the taxpayers.

Since the law was enacted in 1979, Oregon residents have received refunds seven of 11 biennia.

It’s because Oregon promises those seeking economic opportunity a more abundant life than they can expect in California that Oregon has supplanted California as the destination state here on the Left Coast.

As Charles Tiebout, the economist and geographer famously declared all the way back in 1956 – when California was widely regarded as a promised land, flowing with milk and honey – people “vote with their feet.”

The continued loss of tens of thousands of residents in 2013 to Oregon and other states amounts to a vote of no confidence in the caretakers of the California economy.


Tags assigned to this article:
CaliforniaJoseph PerkinsOregonUnited Van Lines

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