“Fewer people have moved to Los Angeles since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, while the number of Californians leaving to other states has gone up,” according to a new study by the nonpartisan California Policy Lab which was released on December 15th. The study found that the number of people moving to California dropped by 38% at the end of September 2021 compared to the end of March 2020. 58,803 people left Los Angeles in 2021, a 12.3% change from 2021. And only 24,882 people moved in, in a decline of 39.5% from 2020. “California loses more than twice as many people to domestic migration as it did before the pandemic,” researchers stated.
Jessica Melhado, former Executive Director of Westwood Kehillah, and her husband Rabbi Raif Melhado moved to Los Angeles a little over six years ago for a job opportunity at Kahal Joseph Congregation. When that job was done, Raif found another job at DeToledo High School. They hadn’t had any family or other ties really bringing them to the West Coast, except for a brother who lived in Northern California. Jessica said there were a lot of nice things about Los Angeles, including the weather, access to good kosher food, and good Jewish schools but the cost of living was high and the cost of real estate was prohibitive for their family. Getting scholarships for Jewish schools, which assumed a higher level of wealth, was also difficult. During the pandemic, being away from most of their family became harder. They ended up in Atlanta much closer to family.
Shterny Plotkin and her family lived in Los Angeles for close to nineteen years. She moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles to be with her husband, Levi, who had a business in LA. She had always hoped to move back to the East Coast though. For a long time, it looked like it would be New York but Levi did not want to move there. Florida was his idea. Shterny loved the community in Los Angeles and found “the nightlife very exciting.” She said “everything was beautiful” and they went to the desert, Santa Barbara, and San Diego a lot. Still, she now loves being closer to New York City. And while it’s much cheaper than Los Angeles, it’s still “not cheap.” They have continued to work in pre-settlement funding in Florida.
People have moved for jobs, to be closer to family, for security reasons but there are many more people who have stayed and won’t be swayed by those out-of-state real estate agents trying to entice them to move to Texas or Florida.
Rebecca Klempner, an author of children’s books, loves “the friends and family” she has in Los Angeles. She likes “the size and resources of the local Jewish community with schools, shuls, a variety of learning opportunities for adults, kosher food and mikvahs.” She also likes the culture and values and the “heterogeneity.” She thinks the cost of moving is too high but also believes that for her husband “getting a teaching job that pays well [out of state], relative to a lower cost of living” would be unlikely. Her husband also has a great pension they’ve been paying into at Los Angeles Unified School District.
Rabbi Jason Weiner, who serves as senior rabbi and director of the Spiritual Care Department at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles as well as rabbi of Knesset Israel Congregation, said, “My family is here. My job is here. I grew up here and I like LA!” Rachelle Neshkes, a public interest/poverty lawyer, states that the weather, her job, family, and friends are reasons she stays but adds that “the difficulties involved in moving and changing jobs, finding a new community and housing” are further reasons not to look elsewhere. Evey Leibow likes the “family, progressive culture, the Jewish community,” and of course, that lovely Los Angeles weather.
Alexis Newman, Associate Director of Admissions at Milken Community School, stays for her family (both hers and her husband’s), great jobs, and great friends that she has found in LA. She was born in Orange County, raised in Palm Springs, and moved to Los Angeles for high school, and hasn’t left since, except for a year to study abroad in Israel. She met her husband, who is also a Los Angeles native, at Santa Monica College. Both sides of their family are here and “that’s a big reason for why we stay.”
Like many others, Maryam Maleki stays in part for the weather. She has “more family here.” She added, “I found my religion here and met my soulmate here.” She loves the kosher options. She also gets paid more in Los Angeles than she would in her native Tennessee. In LA, she gets together with her friends often. She came here for school knowing she wanted to be a pediatrician and instead, became a registered dietician.
So why do people stay? People stay for the weather, family, friends, the Jewish community, jobs, and diversity; so don’t let those earlier statistics fool you. Researchers at the California Policy Lab stressed that they did not find evidence to support the idea of a “pronounced exodus” from the state of California. Plenty of people are still moving to California and, even more, are staying put.