Living in California: Things You Need to Know Before Making the Move!

Written By Jake Rodriguez

Who hasn’t dreamt of living in California? It’s the hub of innovation and entertainment, boasting landscapes as diverse as its people.

But is the California dream really worth it? How much does living in this iconic state cost, and how should you budget before making the big move?

With notoriously high living costs in specific cities and high unemployment rates, it’s essential to plan wisely. Let’s learn what we can about living in California.

1. About California

California the Golden State

California, commonly known as the Golden State, stands out for its breathtaking scenery, multiculturalism, and bustling urban centers. It is the third-largest state in the country, boasting a flourishing job market, renowned educational institutions, and favorable weather conditions. 

The state is home to a diverse range of climates, from the hot deserts of Death Valley to the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and is the major economic powerhouse with a GDP of over $3 trillion.

Facts about California

2. People in California

California is a melting pot of culture. No wonder why there’s no single ethnic group that dominates the Golden State.

People in California

It is a state where one day you are savoring tacos from a local food joint, and the next, digging into the most delicious curry in an Indian restaurant. The languages too here have a hint of diversity. While English is the most widely spoken language here, you can spot the echoes of Spanish around the corner.

Also, contrary to popular belief, the state is for more than just the young and vibrant. People from different generations call this state their home.

3. Quality of life

California is, without a doubt, a great place to live! The state has a strong economy, a diverse population, and a beautiful climate. However, there are also some challenges to living in California, such as the high cost of living and the traffic congestion.

3.1 Rankings

Source: WalletHub

Out of 50 states, California ranks #27th in the Quality of Life index, just above Rhode Island. It was in the middle of the pack, showcasing that despite the cost, scarcity of land, California is still a good place to live because of its weather, opportunities and access to absolutely everything!

3.2 Employment Opportunities

California’s economy offers many employment opportunities, particularly in the technology, entertainment, healthcare, and agriculture sectors.

The state is home to numerous thriving industries and innovative companies, which attract talented individuals from around the world. We will discuss these later in detail.

3.3 Community Engagement:

California residents actively engage in their communities through various social, environmental, and political initiatives.

The state values civic participation and encourages residents to participate in community events, volunteer work, and advocacy efforts.

3.4 California’s biggest Challenge- Population

Despite its many strengths, California faces challenges like traffic congestion, housing affordability, and income inequality. All of these challenges lead to one source- California’s population.

Despite being the 3rd largest state by area, California has had one of the largest populations of unhoused people in the country for decades.

While this problem is solving itself with people leaving the state because of high cost of living and lesser affordability. California still has a population density of 251.3 per square mile, and is ranked among the highest in the country (11th out of 50).

Source: 1, 2

4. Cost of Living in California

According to the cost of living index, California’s overall cost of living is 149.9, which is substantially higher than the national average of 100.

This index considers various factors, such as housing, groceries, healthcare, utilities, transportation, and miscellaneous expenses.

Cost of Living in California
COST OF LIVINGCaliforniaUnited States
  Median Home Cost$684,800$291,700

4.1 Cost of Purchasing and renting in California

California’s housing prices is significantly higher, with a housing index of 239.1. This means that California’s housing cost is 239% higher than the national average, indicating that you must pay a premium if you buy a house here.

Even if you look at the rentals, the average monthly rents for apartments vary across cities. For instance, the average monthly rent in San Francisco is around $3,313, while in Los Angeles, it is approximately $2,781.

4.2 Other factors contributing to the cost of living

In addition to housing, other essential expenses contribute to California’s overall cost of living.

Healthcare costs in the state are notable, with an average annual per-capita expenditure of around $7,638.

Groceries and food and beverage costs are also higher than the national average, with a cost index of 105.1.

4.3 Utilities and Transportation

CategoryAverage Annual Per-Capita Cost in California
Housing and Utilities$9,542
Health Care$7,638
Food and Beverages (non-restaurant)$3,630
Gas and Energy Goods$688
All Other Personal Expenditures$25,138

California’s Utilities and transportation costs are generally higher than the national average.

Utilities, including electricity, water, and heating, have a cost index of 102.4. Transportation costs, including gasoline and vehicle expenses, have a cost index of 133.1. These factors contribute to the overall higher cost of living in the state.

Note: It’s important to consider that the cost of living can vary significantly within California. Major metropolitan areas such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego tend to have higher living costs compared to smaller cities or rural areas. Factors such as local demand, availability of housing, and proximity to amenities and employment opportunities can influence the cost of living within specific regions.

Ultimately, you must assess your financial situation before moving to California.

Create a detailed budget to avoid problems in the future. Consider housing options carefully, and seek financial assistance or cost-saving measures to manage the higher expenses associated with living in California.

Source: 3

5. Housing options in California

Housing options in California

California’s housing market exhibits remarkable­ diversity, spanning from economical apartments to lavish home­s.

California’s median home price as of March 2023 is  $825,000, up 1.5% over the past year. This is much more than the median home price in the U.S., which is $392,000. 

California’s average real estate commission is 5.14%. However, as the housing market in California is competitive, sellers are willing to pay a higher commission rate to attract buyers. And as the commission is baked into the purchase price, they do not have to offer anything from their pocket. 

There is very low inventory in California and high demand for property, but this is only in some cities like Los Angeles. 

But don’t worry as a buyer; you can earn back some of the commission at closing and save thousands on home purchases via buyer rebate in California

Buying a home in California is not easy, so a majority of the population here rents their homes. 

5.1 Housing data of the top 10 cities in Texas

RankCityPopulationUnemployment RateHome ValueAverage Rent
1Los Angeles39718830.0498250002400
2San Diego13859070.0357500002000
3San Jose10353170.02912000003000
4San Francisco8739650.03513000004000
8Long Beach4701850.0526500002100

For example, San Francisco has the highest median home price, while Fresno has the lowest. It’s important to consider the specific location and market conditions when assessing housing costs in California.

The California government provides housing assistance programs to support residents in need. The California Housing Finance Agency offers resources and support for individuals seeking affordable housing options.

Note: The California gove­rnment provides housing assistance programs to support re­sidents in need. Spe­cifically, the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) offe­rs a range of initiatives aimed at he­lping individuals find affordable housing. These programs include­ options for down payment assistance, mortgage loans, and re­ntal support. 

5.2 Best time to purchase property in California

The best time to purchase property in California is in the winter months, from December to February. This is when the housing market is typically slower and more homes are available for sale. Additionally, mortgage rates are typically lower in the winter months.

6. The Economy of California

California’s economy is one of the largest and most influential in the world. Known for its innovation, diverse industries, and entrepreneurial spirit, California is home to numerous Fortune 500 companies and serves as a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Everyone wants to settle in California for a bigger, brighter future, making the job market highly competitive. Even though the unemployment rate in California is way less than the national average and the job market in the state continues to grow, landing a job in California is no easy feat.

Here are a few industries where you should be trying your luck:

6.1 Technology the primary driver of the economy in California

When you picture the global tech scene, it’s hard not to think about California’s Silicon Valley.

The area is renowned for its concentration of tech giants such as Apple, Google, and Facebook and many startups. California’s technology sector continues to attract investments and fuel innovation, creating jobs and driving economic growth.

The valley is the largest private sector employer and home to over 4 million people. With an annual economic activity of over $2 trillion, California’s tech sector is booming!

Every now and then, a groundbreaking product or service emerges from Silicon Valley. As a result, in just half a decade, tech jobs have surged by over 20%! Plus, let’s not forget the cherry on top: generating over $100 billion in state and local taxes.

6.2 The Tale of California’s Entertainment Industry

If you think California, you think Hollywood. The city is one of the state’s most prominent sectors, providing jobs to over 2 million people, and is the third-largest private-sector employer.

Every year, the entertainment industry injects over $100 billion into California’s economy, helping it grow and thrive.

The industry generates substantial revenue through movie production, attracts tourists, and boosts related sectors such as hospitality and tourism.

6.3 Agriculture!

Agriculture is another significant sector in California’s economy. The state is known as the nation’s agricultural powerhouse, producing various crops and livestock. California leads in producing fruits, vegetables, nuts, and dairy products. The fertile Central Valley and advanced agricultural techniques enable California to remain a leading agricultural producer.

6.4 The Soaring High Aerospace Industry!

With major aerospace companies and research institutions located in the state, like SpaceX, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin, the California Aerospace sector is way ahead of its time. It has a significant presence in California, contributing over $60 billion in the state’s economy each year

Also Read:

7. Overview of the Job Market in California

 Overview of the Job Market in California

California’s job market is renowned for its dynamic and diverse opportunities, attracting professionals seeking growth and success from various fields. As the largest state economy in the United States, California boasts a robust and innovative business environment, fueling job creation and attracting major corporations. Here are some key points to consider:


California’s economy spans multiple industries, making it a hub for innovation and technological advancements.

The state is a leader in technology, with Silicon Valley being the epicenter of the global tech industry.

California is home to companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, and Tesla. Additionally, California has a significant presence in entertainment and media, with Hollywood being the world’s entertainment capital.

The state is also a key player in the agriculture, healthcare, aerospace, and renewable energy industries.

👔 Business Environment

California fosters a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, offering a mix of opportunities for startups and established companies. However, it’s important to note that California’s business environment can be more complex due to regulations and higher taxes than other states.

Despite this, the state’s economic strength and access to venture capital make it an attractive destination for businesses aiming to thrive on innovation and creativity.

💼Career Opportunities

California’s diverse economy translates into a wide array of career opportunities. Whether one is looking for a job in technology, entertainment, healthcare, or finance, California provides a rich landscape for professional growth. The state’s vast job market caters to various skill sets and expertise, with both entry-level and high-level positions available.

🧑Major Employers

California houses numerous major companies that offer substantial employment opportunities. Alongside tech giants, the state is home to companies

The state’s labor force is highly educated, focusing on technical skills and advanced degrees. However, it’s important to note that California also faces income inequality and affordability challenges, particularly in housing and living costs.

California’s economic growth and resilience have not been without challenges. The state faces ongoing issues such as housing affordability, infrastructure development, and the impact of natural disasters. Also, regulatory policies and taxation have been areas of debate, influencing the business climate and economic competitiveness.

Source: 4

8. Education in California

California has a diverse and extensive educational system encompassing public and private institutions. The state significantly emphasizes providing quality education from elementary to higher education levels. Here are some key points about education in California:

8.1 K-12 Education

California’s educational system includes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools. The California Department of Education (CDE) oversees the state’s public education system and sets student academic standards.

The CDE’s website provides comprehensive information about schooling in California, including curriculum frameworks, assessments, and resources for parents and educators.

8.2 Higher Education

California boasts a renowned higher education system, with numerous public and private universities, colleges, and community colleges.

The state’s three public higher education systems are the University of California (UC), the California State University (CSU), and the California Community Colleges (CCC).

These institutions offer various academic programs and are recognized globally for their research and educational excellence.

8.3 College Enrollment

According to the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) report, around 3 million students were enrolled in California’s higher education institutions in 2019.

This includes approximately 2.1 million students in the CCC, 474,600 in the CSU, and 280,000 in the UC system. California is home to about 160 for-profit institutions.

8.4 Challenges in Education

Like any educational system, California faces various challenges. These include addressing achievement gaps, ensuring equitable access to quality education, and improving educational outcomes for disadvantaged communities.

Efforts are being made to enhance teacher training, increase funding for schools, and promote innovative approaches to education.

8.5 Education Reforms

California has implemented several education reforms to improve its educational system.

These include the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, which aim to enhance critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and the Local Control Funding Formula, which provides greater flexibility and resources to school districts based on student needs.

It is important to note that education in California is a vast and evolving topic. For more in-depth information, explore the provided sources, including the California Department of Education’s website, educational research publications, and reputable news outlets covering education in the state.

9. Crime Rate in California

Among the 15 largest counties, only Fresno and Orange County saw both violent and property crime rates increase in 2020

Crime Rate in California

As a populous state, California has its share of crime-related challenges. 

9.1 FBI Crime Statistics

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) collects and publishes crime statistics for states and regions in the United States.

According to the FBI’s 2019 Crime in the United States report, California had a higher overall crime rate than the national average.

However, it’s important to consider that crime rates can fluctuate over time and may be impacted by various factors.

9.2 Violent Crime

Violent crime includes offenses such as murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. It’s worth noting that violent crime rates in California have shown a declining trend over the past decade.

9.3 Property Crime

Property crime includes offenses such as burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.

California’s property crime rate has also been higher than the national average. However, like violent crime, property crime rates have declined recently.

9.4 Regional Variations

Crime rates can vary significantly across different counties and cities within California.

Factors such as economic conditions, demographic composition, and law enforcement strategies can contribute to these variations.

It’s advisable to research specific regions of interest to better understand their crime rates and local safety measures.

9.5 Crime Prevention Efforts

California has implemented various crime prevention initiatives to address safety concerns.

These include community policing programs, neighborhood watch programs, and partnerships between law enforcement agencies and community organizations.

Public awareness campaigns and educational programs aim to promote crime prevention and safety.

9.6 Ongoing Challenges

While California has made progress in reducing crime rates, certain challenges persist.

Issues such as gang-related activities, drug trafficking, and property crimes remain areas of concern for law enforcement agencies and community organizations.

Efforts continue to combat these challenges and ensure the safety and well-being of residents and visitors.

Source: 5

10. Healthcare in California

California is home to a wide range of medical facilities and healthcare providers, offering comprehensive healthcare services to its residents. 

10.1 Healthcare Infrastructure

California has a robust healthcare infrastructure that includes hospitals, clinics, medical centers, and specialized healthcare facilities.

These facilities cater to diverse medical needs, from general healthcare to specialized treatments and surgeries.

10.2 Hospital Rankings

Several hospitals in California are nationally recognized for their excellence in specific medical specialties.

Institutions such as the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and Stanford Health Care in Palo Alto consistently rank among the top hospitals in the United States.

10.3 Medical Research and Innovation

California is at the forefront of medical research and innovation. The state is home to renowned medical research institutions, such as the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). These institutions contribute to advancements in medical knowledge, technology, and treatment options.

10.4 Specialty Care Centers

California boasts numerous specialty care centers that focus on specific areas of healthcare, such as cancer treatment, cardiovascular care, neurology, and pediatrics.

These centers provide specialized expertise and state-of-the-art facilities to deliver advanced medical care.

10.5 Rehabilitation and Long-Term Care Facilities

California offers a range of rehabilitation centers and long-term care facilities to support patients recovering from injuries, surgeries, or chronic conditions. These facilities provide specialized therapies, rehabilitation programs, and personalized care for patients needing ongoing medical support.

10.6 Access to Healthcare

California strives to ensure access to healthcare for all its residents. The state has implemented programs such as Covered California, which offers affordable health insurance options to individuals and families.

Along with this, community health clinics and free clinics provide essential healthcare services to underserved populations.

10.7 California Medical Facility

California Medical Facility (CMF) is a state prison located in Vacaville, California. While CMF primarily serves as a correctional facility, it also provides medical and mental health services to incarcerated individuals.

The facility offers comprehensive healthcare programs within a secure environment.

Source: 6

11. Taxes in California

Tax structure in California

In California, the tax structure­ is quite intricate. It involves both state­ income tax and sales tax. The state­ income tax varies from 1% to 13.3%, depe­nding on your income leve­l. Currently, the sales tax rate­ stands at 7.25%, but in many instances or cities, it could be highe­r.

Apart from the state taxes, there are also a number of local taxes that California residents may have to pay. These include location-based taxes like city, county, and school district taxes. 

12. Traffic Situation in California

Traffic Situation in California

California is known not only for its cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego but also for its traffic congestion and commuting issues. The California Department of Transportation reports that the state’s highways and freeways rank among the busiest in the country, resulting in longer commute times for residents.

In bustling cities like Los Angeles, enduring traffic jams has become a part of everyday life for millions of commuters. While the average commute time in Los Angeles is 30 minutes, it can significantly increase during peak hours. Similarly, major metropolitan areas, like San Francisco, also encounter traffic around major job hubs.

California is definitely the place to live with its sun-kissed beaches, cutting-edge industries, and diverse cultural offerings. However, it is also very expensive and very crowded. It is important that you approach the idea of moving there with every factor in mind.

With the right planning and a realistic budget in hand, the California dream can be yours. Just remember to weigh the pros and cons, factor in the costs, and prepare for an adventure like no other. After all, there’s no place quite like the Golden State.

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