A Californians will feel right at home in Dallas, even before they hit the ground running. Like the suburbs around Los Angeles, San Diego, and in the Bay Area, Dallas and other Texas subways are built on the security of automobiles and unending sprawl; as I landed, I saw from the air the familiar landscape of endless blocks of shopping centers and single-family homes, all connected by a circulation system of highways.
I rented a sweet pickup truck to get around Dallas but that was the extent of my taste of local taste. Texas has barbecue and California has burritos, but the American urban landscape has become damn homogeneous in recent decades, and perhaps one of the reasons so many Californians feel comfortable moving to Texas is that, on the ground, in the drive- through-line at Starbucks or the colossal parking lot at Target, everyday life is more similar than it is different.
My guide through the suburbs of Dallas was Marie Bailey, a real estate agent who helped Move to Texas From California! runs, a Facebook group that helps disillusioned Californians find their way to the promised land. Bailey is a Californian herself. She and her family moved in 2017 from El Segundo, a beach town adjacent to Los Angeles International Airport, to Prosper, a landlocked oasis of new construction north of Dallas. In El Segundo, the average price of a house is $1.3 million; in Prosper it is less than half.
And in Prosper, the homes are palatial, many of them part of sprawling new developments packed with amenities unheard of in California. “It’s like living in a country club,” Bailey told me, sounding hyperbole until she showed me the five-acre lagoon and white sand beach in the development where she and her husband bought a house. Their home is 5,000 square feet; they bought it for about the same price they sold a house 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 through the suburbs of Dallas, Bailey pointed out cute house after cute house now occupied by a Californian. I’d talked about the idea of choosing between California and Texas, but for many people who moved here, Bailey suggested, there really wasn’t much choice at all — it was just that, economically, they couldn’t 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 Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill severely restricting access to votes. As attractive as Texas real estate may be, I was beginning to regret this whole idea: Twitter was buzzing with calls to boycott Texas, and here I was—a left-wing DailyExpertNews columnist— willing to praise the livability of a state that seemed to swing to the right edge.
I suspect that politics isn’t a primary factor in most people’s decisions, but politics is never far below the surface of a discussion comparing California to Texas. In the news media, the gulf between California politics and Texas politics is usually described as so deep that it cannot be bridged. And it is true that there are certain issues on which there is little room for compromise.