A photograph of Houston, Texas for an article about Californians flooding to Texas. (Photo by Vlad Busuioc from Unsplash)

The California Exodus: How Texas Is Becoming the New Hollywood

The moves of notable celebrities like Elon Musk and Joe Rogan are having an impact on the Lone Star State, but no one is sure what the final result will be.

Close your eyes and imagine a perfect place — somewhere filled with mountains, ideal tanning weather and celebrities. If the place you had in mind was anywhere near California, then you might be living in 2018. It’s 2021 now, Texas is the new California and Austin is the new Hollywood.

Scratch that, Hollywood is dead — yet another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been replaced by the Netflix empire and a slew of forgettable podcasts. The Golden State’s declining appeal is indicative of a changing modern landscape, signaling the birthplace of a new potential media and industrial empire. At least that’s what some of the world’s leading innovators, podcasters and comedians are thinking.

The truth is, however, Texas has been going through a lot lately — from debilitating winter storms that would be only a mild inconvenience in most states to the invasion of California celebrities and tech billionaires looking to save on taxes. Texas is hardly the same sunny and independent state that it once was.

They’re not the only ones, though; according to the Texas Realtors Association’s 2020 report, over 86,000 Californians relocated to Texas, with the same report indicating a 78% increase in out-of-state residents. A decision some would come to regret in the great Texas ice storm of February 2021.

There’s no doubt that Texas has always had a certain allure for people with diverse backgrounds and motivations, but there’s been a recent surge of interest in the state among celebrities like Joe Rogan and Elon Musk.

The pair have appeared together on Rogan’s popular podcast multiple times, making for fascinating conversations where Rogan asks a question about space aliens while Musk calculates how his reaction will affect the stock market before answering.

Their latest podcast together hit on all the fan favorite topics, like commercializing spaceflight and colonizing the galaxy. As relevant as these things are, it would be interesting to hear about the implications of the world’s most popular podcaster and richest man moving to Texas. What does it mean for Texas, and what does the exodus say about California’s current conditions?

For Rogan, the shutdown of his beloved The Comedy Store in LA, combined with overpopulation, largely prompted the move to Austin, Texas. He explained, “I want to go somewhere in the center of the country, somewhere easier to travel to both places and somewhere you have a little bit more freedom, also I think Los Angeles is overcrowded.”

The move will also help him keep more of his $100 million Spotify deal, which will save him over $13 million in taxes. So what’s in it for Texans? Well, hopefully some of that $13 million will come in handy for the new comedy club Rogan has talked about opening in Austin.

In a recent podcast with fellow Texan and comedian Ron White, Rogan mentioned his desire to open a club and help foster a thriving Austin comedy scene. Rogan said, “I want to help them, the way I’ve helped comics in LA, get them on the podcast, promote them, the idea is to let people know there’s a real scene here.”

Indeed, if Rogan makes good on his promise, Austin could become the country’s new mecca of comedy.

On the other hand, Musk’s migration has much to do with overseeing the construction of new projects for his companies, SpaceX and Tesla. SpaceX is currently building and testing rockets in Boca Chica, a remote piece of land in South Texas. Meanwhile, construction is currently underway on Tesla’s “gigafactory,” a massive manufacturing center where the company’s new Cybertruck, Semi and Model Y vehicles will be produced before the end of 2021.

Of course, it goes without saying that Musk will also enjoy a much-needed tax break from his Texas residency, but he’s been characteristically cryptic in his comments regarding moving on from California. He said, “If a team has been winning for too long they do tend to get a little complacent, a little entitled and then they don’t win the championship anymore.” Musk has certainly been critical of the state’s COVID-19 shutdowns in the past, comments that haven’t aged well in hindsight.

Nevertheless, the tech billionaire’s opinion of living in California is best summarized in the following sentence, preferably read aloud in his voice: “It wasn’t necessarily a great use of my time here.”

Following the migration of these two behemoths comes others who are hoping to establish themselves in a bustling new environment ripe for the taking.

Enter comedian Tim Dillon, host of “The Tim Dillon Show” and current Texas resident. After appearing on Rogan’s podcast, Dillon exploded in popularity due in part to his wildly offensive but hilarious rants on anything from conspiracy theories to corporate steakhouses.

His dark humor has propelled his podcast into the mainstream, and with his recent move to the Texas Hill Country, he’s become one of the first comedians to follow Rogan’s California departure.

Why? In his words, “Pick a reason, there’s 25, cost a lot of money to live in the state, tax burden is high, there’s less to do. Being in a career that I have makes me want to go down and live simpler in a less expensive state, do live shows and podcasts.” Or, as he more succinctly put it in another podcast, “New York and LA it’s been done, who cares? It’s been done.”

Aside from the banality of America’s two most iconic cities, it seems that a lower cost of living is a common factor in moving to Texas for these tax-evading nomads. California’s income tax is certainly high, ranking as the highest in the country according to Business Insider.

However, if other wealthy elites follow suit, what could the loss of tax revenue mean for California — a state that is already suffering from a massive homeless problem? According to NPR, the homeless population in Los Angeles alone is now over 66,000, a nearly 13% increase from 2019. With economic conditions worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no wonder individuals with the means to move are seeking other places to lay their hats.

Ultimately, the change ushered in by 2020 has brought a new landscape of opportunities. Whether or not Austin turns into Los Angeles is entirely up in the air until COVID-19 becomes a long page in the history books. Until then, more and more Californians are embracing the words spoken by Texan icon Joe Rogan: “I’m outta here, I’m gonna go to Texas.”

Justin Spencer, University of Texas at San Antonio

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Justin Spencer

University of Texas at San Antonio

Justin Spencer is an Air Force veteran who after six years of service attended UTSA. He currently works as a warehouse manager and customer service representative for Pureline Nutrition, a Texas-based supplement company.

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