University of Southern California: Angelenos plan to leave L.A. County even as residents’ consumer confidence is rising

The annual USC Dornsife-Union Bank LABarometer livability survey assesses neighborhood quality of life in Los Angeles County, measuring residents’ life satisfaction, stress related to housing, neighborhood satisfaction, exposure to crime and social connectedness, and more. The survey also tracks consumer confidence through six questions regarding individual finances and the economy.

This is LABarometer’s second livability survey, which is based on responses from a representative panel of 1,800 L.A. County residents between Nov. 9, 2020, and Jan. 7, 2021. To compare livability in L.A. to the entire state of California and tothe U.S., the same questions were fielded to more than 9,000 U.S. residents from Feb. 18 to March 17, 2021.

The first livability survey, referred to as Wave 1, was fielded between June and July 2019.

Key Findings

• Angelenos are less satisfied with the quality of their life, compared to people throughout California and the U.S., and the gap has widened.

On a scale of 1 (low life satisfaction) to 7 (high life satisfaction), the average life satisfaction in L.A. County is 4.3, nearly unchanged from 2019. But it’s almost half a point lower than the U.S. and California average of 4.7 — double the gap observed in 2019.

• Ten percent of Angelenos plan to leave L.A. County in the next year, a 40% increase from 2019.

In 2019, 7% of L.A. County residents said they planned to leave Los Angeles and 16% said they planned to move to new housing somewhere else in the county.

The new findings reveal that 10% of Angelenos now plan to move away from L.A. County while 14% plan to find new housing in the county.

• Consumer confidence in L.A. County is rising, while it has stalled throughout the rest of California and the U.S.

On a scale of 0 to 100, where higher numbers denote more positive assessments of the economy, consumer confidence in L.A. County (50.3) remains slightly lower than the entire state of California (50.9) and the U.S. (51.8). That said, it has risen sharply since at least the middle of last year, while statewide and throughout the country, consumer confidence has stalled.

The 50.3 consumer confidence measurement in L.A. County is down 3.3 points from June 2019 but up 2.7 from June 2020.

• Angelenos perceive there to be less crime, vandalism, and drug and alcohol use in their neighborhoods than they did in 2019.

Survey respondents were asked a series of questions about whether or not problems like drug and alcohol use, vandalism, and crime were common in their neighborhoods. Residents who perceived those to be issues in 2019 were significantly less likely to consider them to be common issues in the most recent survey.

The one neighborhood issue that is a rising concern is loitering. There was a slight increase from 2019 in the percentage of people who perceived “too many people hanging around streets” as an issue.

Expert analysis

“Five months after our first LABarometer livability survey, everyone’s lives were upended by COVID-19,” said Kyla Thomas, director of LABarometer at the USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research. Our latest findings, which reflect the experiences of L.A. County residents during the peak of the pandemic, reveal reasons for optimism as well as concern.

“It’s encouraging that perceptions of neighborhood crime are down and that consumer confidence in Los Angeles is rising, even as confidence has stalled in other parts of the state and nation. The 40% increase in the number of people who plan to leave Los Angeles in the coming year, however, raises a red flag. It’s also worrisome that the gap in life satisfaction between L.A. County and the national average has grown.”

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