Walters: Is California’s population peaking?

When California, with 17 million residents, surpassed New York
to become the nation’s most populous state in 1962, it was a
cause for celebration.

The state had boomed during World War II and the postwar era,
nearly tripling its population in just one generation. By the
1960s, it was well on its way to becoming a global economic
powerhouse.

With the COVID-19 pandemic raging, anew state population report
issued on May 1 didn’t get much media attention. But it
underscored an important trend: California may be hitting its
population peak and could start seeing a decline in the
not-too-distant future.

The state Department of Finance calculated that California’s
population growth — which had been as high as 600,000 a year in
the 1980s — dropped to a net of 87,984 or 0.02% in 2019, leaving
California just shy of 40 million people.

Why? Two reasons.

The first is that California’s production of babies has been
declining while the number of people dying has been increasing.

The second is that the number of people leaving California for
other states has been far higher than those who move here, while
foreign immigration also has been waning.

Fewer babies, fewer young immigrants and the aging of the large
post-World War II baby boom generation also mean that as
California’s overall population growth slows to near-zero, its
elderly population is still growing. And since the elderly
population is mostly white, California’s black, Latino and Asian
communities are destined to become ever-larger components of the
state’s socioeconomic mix.

These demographic trends, if continued, would have enormous
impacts even without the pandemic. If anything, the pandemic and
the very sharp economic downturn it spawned will accelerate the
trends, most likely retarding population growth even more.

While the birth rate had been drifting lower for years, it took
a steep dive when the Great Recession struck in 2007, falling from
15.4 per 100,000 population in that year to 11.3 last year. If the
pandemic recession persists, we can expect another drop in births,
plus an even stronger outflow of people to other states and weaker
migration from other countries.

Not only was the state population report issued during a
pandemic, but also during a year when the federal government is
conducting the decennial census, one that already had officials
worried because many Californians — the poor, the nonwhite and
the undocumented — are very difficult to count accurately.

A new study by UCLA researchers found that the poorest
neighborhoods in Los Angeles County also tend to have the lowest
census response rates and the highest rates of COVID-19
infection.

“As things stand now, the only way to prevent an extreme
undercount in some areas of the county would be for a horde of
in-person census takers to descend on parts of the city with the
greatest chance of coronavirus transmission,†study leader Paul
Ong said. “Given the ongoing health concerns, it remains to be
seen whether in-person interviews will even be viable during the
current census.â€

Whatever the census decrees California’s population to be, it
also will become the basis for calculating California’s share of
the nation’s 435 congressional seats.

The state gained seven seats after the 1990 census, thanks to a
growth of 6 million people in the 1980s, but it gained just one new
seat after the 2000 census and none after the 2010 census.
California is on the bubble for possibly losing a seat this time
around, which would drive home the new reality that its 170 years
of strong population expansion has come to an end.

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Source: FS – All – Interesting – News 2
Walters: Is California’s population peaking?