A Californian will feel right at home in Dallas even before touching the ground. Like the suburbs around Los Angeles, San Diego and across the Bay Area, Dallas and other Texas metros are built on the certainty of cars and infinite sprawl; from the air, as I landed, I could see the familiar landscape of endless blocks of strip malls and single-family houses, all connected by a circulatory system of freeways.
I rented a sweet pickup truck to get around Dallas, but that was the extent of my taste of local flavor. Texas has barbecue and California has burritos, but the American urban landscape has grown stultifyingly homogeneous over the past few decades, and perhaps one reason so many Californians are comfortable moving to Texas is that, on the ground, in the drive-through line at Starbucks or the colossal parking lot at Target, daily life is more similar than it is different.
My guide through the Dallas suburbs was Marie Bailey, a real estate agent who runs Move to Texas From California!, a Facebook group that helps disillusioned Californians find their way to the promised land. Bailey is herself a Californian. She and her family moved in 2017 from El Segundo, a beach city next to Los Angeles International Airport, to Prosper, a landlocked oasis of new housing developments north of Dallas. In El Segundo, the median home list price is $1.3 million; in Prosper, it’s less than half that.
And in Prosper, the houses are palatial, many of them part of sprawling new developments that brim with amenities unheard-of in California. “It’s like living in a country club,” Bailey told me, which sounded like hyperbole until she showed me the five-acre lagoon and white sand beach in the development where she and her husband purchased a home. Their house is 5,000 square feet; they bought it for about the same price for which they sold a home they owned in Orange County, which was 1,500 square feet.
Bailey’s move gets to the heart of the great California-Texas migration: housing. As she drove me around Dallas’s suburbs, Bailey would point out cute house after cute house now occupied by a Californian. I had been talking about the idea of choosing between California and Texas, but for many people moving here, Bailey suggested, there really was not much choice at all — it was simply that, economically, they could not make their lives work in California, and in Texas, they could.
I visited Dallas two weeks after Texas’ bounty-hunter abortion law went into effect, and a week after Greg Abbott, the governor, signed a bill that severely restricts voting access. Attractive as Texas’ real estate might be, I was beginning to regret this whole idea: Twitter was alive with calls to boycott Texas and here I was — a lefty New York Times columnist —preparing to laud the livability of a state that seemed to be lurching to the fringe right.
I suspect that politics isn’t a primary factor in most people’s moving decisions, but politics is never far below the surface of any discussion comparing California to Texas. In the news media, the gulf between California’s politics and Texas’ politics is usually described as so profound as to be unbridgeable. And it’s true that there are certain issues on which there is little room for compromise.