California Dreaming Returns for First Time in Six Years, More People Are Moving into the Golden State Than Are Leaving It

Article excerpt

The California mystique is back.

Ever since the Gold Rush, California has been known as the cradle of the American dream, a land where ordinary people have a chance at a better way of life.

For many, that dream ended in the late 1980s, when the state suffered its worst recession since the Great Depression. As a result, California has witnessed an exodus of residents fleeing the state for better jobs and cheaper living: The Los Angeles spandex set was packing its Range Rovers to move everywhere from Seattle to Sun Valley. But times have changed. For the first time in six years, more people are moving into California from other states than are exiting. The turnaround signals not only that California's economy has rebounded, but so has Americans' faith in the Golden State as the land of opportunity. Paradise Lost has once again become Paradise Found. "The decade-long ordeal of restructuring California has been accomplished and the California dream has been recovered," says Kevin Starr, a state historian at the California State Library in Sacramento. According to the state Department of Finance, which tracks migration figures, 20,729 more people came to California from other states than moved away for the year ended last June 30 - the first increase since 1991. That compares with a decrease the year before of 202,729. What's more, this wave is expected to continue. The Department of Finance forecasts a net migration of 55,000 in 1998 and 65,000 the following year. "We weathered the recession and have become a job-creating state with a vengeance," says H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the Department of Finance. Indeed, California has rebounded from the consolidation of the aerospace industry in the early 1990s, which cost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Since then, the economy has shifted away from defense. Today high-tech, Hollywood, and small businesses are fueling growth. Last year, for example, California created an estimated 480,000 jobs and is on course to create 365,000 more this year. And that's putting the Golden State back on the map as a relocation destination. Respite from disasters At the same time, a lack of earthquakes, fires, floods, and urban unrest - which marked the early 1990s - leaves more people remembering the palm trees and 70-degree winters. In the past six months, Dilbeck Realtors in Pasadena, Calif., for example, has seen a big jump in the number of people relocating to the area from other states. "It's definitely a function of the economy being so much better and companies starting to grow again," says Jill Silvas, vice president of corporate services. …


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