How Great is the Migration to the Inland Empire?

Human migration still intrigues historians and anthropologists. Now, in the Inland Empire, migration is a hot topic for business leaders and economists.

Migration: Crossing County Lines

Recently, the United States Census Bureau reported a huge migration of people in Southern California. According to the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, “…the largest migration into a region in the United States has been from Los Angeles County to San Bernardino County”, involving over 42,000 people. Typically, a mass influx of people indicates there is something really good in the new location, and in this case, the top reasons cited are affordability of housing and jobs.

Affordable Housing

People who work and live in the Inland Empire enjoy the bonus of affordable housing compared to neighboring coastal counties. Inland Empire houses cost significantly less ($200,000 to $400,000) than houses in LA and Orange County. Lower housing costs also benefit people who work in LA or Orange County. For many, an extra 30 minutes (or 60, or 90…) on the freeway is worth it for affordable real estate.


According to the Inland Empire Center at Claremont McKenna College, the Inland Empire saw better employment numbers compared to the majority of other Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in California. Its unemployment rate continues to decrease. People in the Inland Empire are spending money, and according to John Husing, the chief economist of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership, the local economy actually looks hopeful. The quoted Husing:

  • Job creation in the region exceeded economic forecasts for 2013
  • Healthcare and logistics were expected to show significant growth
  • Industrial construction supports e-commerce warehousing needs

The Naysayers

An April 2014 NPR news story quoted City Council member Jim Mulvihill as saying "San Bernardino is bankrupt," and that cost cutting resulted in a reduced police force and higher crime rates. Mulvihill also stated that people moving to San Bernardino looking for jobs may be disappointed, as most open jobs are low-paying food service or casino positions.

Actual unemployment figures for the Inland Empire are not terrific. The unemployment rate in March 2014 was 9.4%, and 8.3% in April, higher than national averages, according to California’s Employment Development Department. Plus, not all are thrilled with the types of employers and industries coming into the region. Much of the Inland Empire economy relies upon fulfillment warehouses, and there are regular complaints about working conditions and the treatment of employees. Others complain about warehouses being ugly. There are continuing concerns about the amount of air pollution created by all the trucking traffic to and from distribution centers.

Promoting Inland Empire Expansion

According to the Press Enterprise, over 25 percent of Children in Ontario and Riverside live in poverty, with even higher numbers in Moreno Valley and San Bernardino. Based upon those figures, and others about education levels, economist John Husing urged development of strategies to provide jobs for everyone in the region. He also spoke of the Inland Empire’s assets: cheaper open land for development and lower labor costs, in addition to the rising dissension over the amount of regulatory control in the area.

However, despite income and regulatory issues, the Inland Empire regional economy continues its recovery, according to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. In fact, jobs are expected to continue to increase, with one sector in particular having double digit job growth: construction, according to IE Business Daily.

Economic recovery will not come to all people and industries at the same time, and some areas will lag behind others. More people migrating to the area will likely draw businesses to the Inland Empire. Because of this, more people will have jobs that pay a living wage. The economic recovery statistics may not sound great to everyone, but the Inland Empire economy continues to grow with the recent influx of new residents, job growth and construction.