Montana is one of the most beautiful and least populated states in the US. However, its population has increased in recent years, thanks to migration from other states, including California. So, why are Californians moving to Montana?
Californians are moving to Montana due to its low cost of living, low tax rates, cheaper housing options, growing economy, low population density with pristine environment, and minimal traffic. But Californians have to deal with the unpredictable weather, minimal amenities, and scarcity of homes.
However, these challenges don’t seem to discourage several Californians from moving. According to a study, at least 13,000 Californians moved to Montana in the last two years. Here, we discuss why Californians are moving to Montana.
Factors Responsible for Migration from California to Montana
There are several reasons behind the mass migration of Californians to Montana. They include:
1. Cost of living
Montana’s low living cost is its biggest attraction, especially for people moving from places like California. The cost-of-living index here is 6% lower than the average nationwide. That’s affordable compared to California, where it’s almost 50% higher. This has become the primary driving force for people to leave California and move to less expensive states.
This is related to the cost of living but deserves its mention. California has one of the highest tax burdens in the US. Its individual income tax brackets are the highest, and the combined state and local sales taxes aren’t much better. Montana is a significant improvement on that. The taxes here are quite low. The highest income tax is 6.75%, and there’s no sales tax. For Californians, that’s a significant improvement.
The number one challenge for Californians is affordable housing. Whether they’re renting or buying, the numbers are usually in the seven figures in the major cities. Even in smaller and less popular places, homes are still costly. Rents are equally very high no matter where you choose to live. Montana is much more affordable.
Although homes in the state cost more than the national average, anyone who moves here will still save around $300k compared to the average cost of homes in California. This makes it a logical choice for most Californians who sell their more expensive homes in the Golden state to buy cheaper, bigger, and better homes in Montana.
4. Job Market and Economy
California is attractive for many reasons. One of them is the strong economy and job market. No other state compares to it in the US, and it has the 5th biggest economy globally even compared with countries. So, Montana doesn’t come close. But Montana isn’t so bad either. It’s the 4th biggest state in the US and has just over a million population. Although that means low population density, it also means opportunities. Major employers are government, healthcare, education, finance, real estate, etc.
In 2020, the state had a median household income of $56,539 and a per capita income of $32,463. While that’s lower than California’s, the low cost of living makes it fairly sufficient. The state also has a strong economy and had the 7th strongest economy in 2021. Data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis revealed that its per capita income grew by 8.5% in 2021. It also has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. All these make it a good choice for most Californians.
5. Low population Density and Pristine Environment
California has the most people in the US. Moving to Montana is a completely different life because the whole population of the state is just over a million. Given its large size and sparse population, overpopulation isn’t a concern here. Residents get to enjoy a pristine natural environment. The northern and eastern parts of the state have the least population.
For many Californians used to the fast-paced lifestyle of California, Montana is the perfect place to unwind and relax. Montana has become a great choice, with many people trying to escape the hustle and bustle of major cities.
There’s no way to talk about California without talking about the traffic. This is an issue that many Californians, including those not living in the major cities, will experience more than once during their time high. The opposite applies in Montana. Although the state is car-dependent, especially for those not living in the major cities, the number of people driving is still far lower than what you’ll find in California. The average commute time here is 17.8 minutes which is lower than the national average.
Challenges for Californians Moving to Montana
Leaving California for Montana doesn’t mean the Land of Shining Mountains is perfect. There are certain things that Californians will move to when they move to Montana. That includes:
1. Unpredictable Weather
Montana weather is quite okay, but nothing beats the all-year sunshine of California. Montana experiences the four seasons in full. The summer is amazing, but the winter brings snow. This is likely something you’re not used to in California. The state receives only 15.2 inches of rainfall but 48.8 inches of snow.
However, the 189 sunny days annually are quite manageable even for Californians. During winter, it’s tricky to drive here. So, you might be unable to drive to the closest city to get an important item. This makes it necessary to be self-sufficient and have a survival kit for such periods.
2. Difficulty Finding Houses
Although homes are cheaper here, finding homes in the major cities can be difficult. There’s a high percentage of owner occupancy, which could be quite costly. Migrants usually face challenges finding homes in the cities, and some locals are not that welcoming to Californians. So, this could be a challenge for those moving here.
3. Minimal Amenities
If you’re moving from California, you’re likely used to certain expectations in terms of amenities and entertainment. But don’t expect that in Montana. Even its major cities still feel suburban or rural. That means the entertainment options are minimal, and self-sufficiency is essential.
Montana is a fine place; understandably, several Californians are moving there. The low cost of living and other attributes makes it a good substitute. But leaving California also means leaving behind some things that make the Golden state amazing. For most people, the sacrifices are worth it.