The Bush Institute’s Cullum Clark shares what he’s learned about California-to-Texas migration.
“Don’t California my Texas” is a common refrain of Texans who don’t want an influx of Californians to influence the traditional Republican values of the state.
The California-to-Texas migration trend is hard to ignore, especially after the pandemic led to a wave of West Coasters exiting for more affordable cities like Dallas.
One out of every 10 people moving to Texas comes from California, according to a recent study by the Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M University. Companies like Charles Schwab, Tesla and Oracle are just some of the latest to relocate their headquarters from the Golden State to the Lone Star State.
Cullum Clark, director of the Bush Institute-Southern Methodist University Economic Growth Initiative, considers himself a student of what’s driving Texas’ explosive growth.
Clark, 55, worked in the investment industry for 25 years before earning his Ph.D. in economics at SMU with the aim of a second career in economic policy research and engagement, he said.
Shortly after graduating, he joined the Bush Institute to lead a program called “Blueprint for Opportunity,” which focuses on creating “inclusively prosperous, opportunity-rich” regions, cities, towns and neighborhoods, he said.
From his research, Clark has found that Californians are almost exclusively moving to Texas’ four large metro areas — Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Austin. He said that means big-city leaders need to figure out how to make urban communities more livable as they get more crowded.
“I compare Dallas to how Dallas was when I grew up here. It feels a lot bigger,” he said. “Yes, it feels sometimes a little bit more crowded. On the other hand, it’s a whole lot more interesting.”
Clark sat down with The Dallas Morning News to discuss why people are moving from California to Texas and the impact it may have on the state. His answers are edited for brevity and clarity.
Why are people leaving California for Texas in droves?
People are moving to Texas primarily for economic reasons. They want good job opportunities and to be able to afford the type of lifestyle they want to live.
When you look at the West Coast compared to Texas, there’s a gigantic difference in housing prices. And that is by far the biggest driver. But I think people are looking at the whole package when they decide where to live.
If people were single-mindedly focused on cheap real estate, they would go to rural places, maybe in the Rio Grande Valley or the Appalachians. But that’s not where they’re going; they’re leaving those places.
You want to be able to get the job, make the income you’re aspiring to, and afford the lifestyle that you’ve been wanting to achieve. The big metropolitan areas of Texas are offering that package about as well as any place in the United States today.