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LA County Saw More People Leave Than Any Other County In The US

A map of the United States that shows population change across counties.
Los Angeles County saw the largest drop in population between July 1, 2021 and July 1, 2022.
(United States Census Bureau
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Out of the 3,144 counties across the U.S., Los Angeles saw the largest drop in population between July 1, 2021 and July 1, 2022, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

More than 90,000 people left the area, though that’s fewer than the roughly 180,000 that moved the previous year during the peak of the pandemic. That’s when many folks, no longer tethered to an office, began to flee to lower density areas with cheaper housing costs.

“90,000 is not a huge number. It’s not anything to panic about, especially given all the circumstantial problems related to the pandemic,” said Dowell Myers, professor of urban planning and demography at the Price School of Policy at USC.

“The one thing I do worry about is the high housing costs, which are going to persist and will be a deterrent to other people coming here in the future. We’ve got to get a good grip on those,” Myers said.

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A chart showing that Los Angeles County is the most populous county in the U.S. Second is Cook County in Illinois.
Los Angeles is the most populous county in the U.S.
(United States Census Bureau

It’s important to remember that with more than 9.7 million people across 4,000 square miles, L.A.’s population is the largest in the U.S. by a wide margin. Cook County, Illinois, has the second largest, and only 5 million people live there.

Santa Clara and Alameda counties also made the top 10 list.

A chart showing that Los Angeles lost the largest number of people in the U.S.
Out of all the counties in the U.S., Los Angeles saw the largest number of people leave.
(United States Census Bureau
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However, if instead you look at the total percent of the population that left, L.A’s not even in the top 10.

Another California county takes that prize, with Lassen seeing the biggest percentage drop.

A chart showing that Lassen County in California lost the largest percentage of their population.
Lassen County in California lost the largest percentage of their population, followed by numerous counties in Louisiana, which was hit by Hurricane Ida.
(United States Census Bureau

One thing worth pointing out is how many counties in Louisiana made the top 10 list, likely as a result of the destruction done by Hurricane Ida, which was supercharged by climate change. Shifts in population as a result of climate related disasters will continue to occur as things get worse.

During the same 2021-2022 time period, California as a whole lost about 114,000 people, meaning L.A.’s exodus could've accounted for about 80%.

“Anytime we see a coastal California county losing folks, that’s really a policy failure on our part,” said Adam Fowler, founding partner at CVL Economics in Los Angeles, who also points to a lack of affordable housing supply as a major issue.

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He’s also watching office vacancy rates, which have been steadily climbing in many places.

“That’s going to really have some red flags for our fiscal house of cards in jurisdictions over the next decade,” he said.

“We’re not sure how that’s going to play out if the valuation of those buildings follows the downward trajectory of what office vacancies might indicate. How we pay for things locally is going to hinge on a lot of those questions in the next few years.”

The counties that saw the greatest number of people move to them were all in Texas, Arizona, and Florida, which tend to have cheaper housing available.

What do you want to know about fires, earthquakes, climate change or any science-related topics?
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