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Study tracks Californians moving to Montana

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A study from a California research team shows an increasing number of Californians moving to Montana. Courtesy: City of Bozeman and Michelle Wolfe

A study out of California shows an increasing number of Californians moving to Montana. According to the data, one of the most popular destinations for people moving out of California during the pandemic was Montana.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported more than 13,000 Californians moved to Montana since the beginning of the pandemic.

“The younger families is what I’m seeing coming here full-time,” Bozeman real estate broker Christy Delger said. “Then, with the older people that aren’t worried so much about their kids, they’re coming here as they can, and then they do plan on moving here full-time, eventually. So it’s kind of both, is what I’m personally seeing. “

Many real estate agents in Bozeman said the growing connectivity the Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport offers is a big reason why more Californians are relocating to the area.

“It kind of happened simultaneously with the pandemic,” Delger said. “Where our airport got to the stage where especially California, because of the direct flights to San Francisco and L.A., Long Beach. It just became a more viable option to be able to continue to work in California but come here much more often and easier.”

People are fleeing urban areas for more space in the wake of the pandemic.

According to a report from the California Policy Lab, a research group from the University of California, more San Franciscans moved to Montana than to any other state during the pandemic.

“One question which we got a lot but can’t answer is the ‘why’ people are moving,” California Policy Lab director of communications and outreach Sean Coffey said. “The report was focused on the ‘what.’”

The report showed Bay Area residents are the largest group leaving California. After Montana, Utah is seeing the next highest migration. Between the two states, there’s a 140% increase of San Franciscans calling these Rocky Mountain states home.

“It’s the access to recreation,” Delger said. “When you’re in a more urban environment, things are getting shut down left and right, you come to a place like Bozeman and it’s still a playground, we still have rivers and lakes and mountains and skiing and all the activities that are perfect in a pandemic because they’re outside.”

Californians aren’t having to give up too much of what they loved about city life with Bozeman’s tech startups, the downtown atmosphere and Montana State University. Some Montana cities are offering the best of both worlds.

On the flip side, many Montanans selling their homes are leaving the area. According to local realtors, some Montanans are taking the profit and moving to more affordable places.

Read the full study at California Policy Lab.