Demographers eye no-growth future for California


Driven by rising out-migration and falling birth rates, California’s population growth has stalled, leading analysts to consider a possible forecast of a so-called “no-growth” period in the future.

Although Americans nationwide have been flooding south and west for years, the Golden State has become an exception. Nearly 62 percent of Americans lived in the two regions, Justin Fox observed from Census figures. “That’s up from 60.4 percent in the 2010 census, 58.1 percent in 2000, 55.6 percent in 1990 — and 44 percent in 1950. The big anomaly is California, which is very much in the West, yet has lost an estimated 383,344 residents to other states since 2010.”

“The state’s birth rate declined to 12.42 births per 1,000 population in 2016 — the lowest in California history,” the San Jose Mercury News noted, citing a state Department of Finance report. “In 2010, the last time figures were compiled, the birth rate was 13.69 per 1,000 population.”

Changing habits

Cultural and economic changes — familiar to Californians who have followed the debate around jobs, families, adulthood and the millennial generation — were responsible for the dip, Finance Department demographer Walter Schwarm told the Mercury News. “There are a lot of people who could be having children but are choosing to do something else,” he said. “People want to establish careers. They’re looking to pursue degrees, they’re getting out there and finding their place in employment,” and, in the case of couples hoping to start families into their 30s, it becomes “harder and harder to conceive.”

Relatively speaking, however, California’s figures have remained strong. The state hit its in-state birth low at a time when the United States experienced “the lowest rate of population growth of any year since the Great Depression,” the Washington Post recently reported, referencing other Census figures that show deaths reaching a 16-year high. “The nation grew by 0.695 percent between 2015 and 2016 to 323.1 million, down from 0.732 percent the previous year — the lowest increase since the 1937-1938 period, when it was 0.60 percent,” according to the paper. 

“Immigration also declined, though for the past three years immigration levels have been higher than they were since before the recession of 2007-2009. But the fall in the natural increase, from 4.07 to 3.84 per 1,000, reflecting fewer births and more deaths, is the lead cause — and the trend is likely to continue, Frey said.” 

Global ripples

But the immigration issue has not abated politically as flows of labor and patterns of conflict have morphed over the years. In a reminder of California’s place at a nexus of increasingly global migration, Mexico’s own authorities have strained in recent months to cope with an influx of African and Caribbean migrants to borderland cities. Baja state governor warned last month that the situation in Tijuana was “becoming overwhelming. Just in the last two weeks a large group of people from Haiti arrived, at the same time that the United States reduced the number of interviews for asylum,” he lamented, according to Mexico News Daily.

An uncertain balance

Taken together, the large demographic trends of the past several years have changed the impact of California’s population on social services budgets, with benefits for the elderly increasing in demand but others sinking in the aggregate. “The state’s public schools are seeing no growth in their overall student population, and some districts are seeing declines,” Dan Walters observed at the Sacramento Bee. “Were we growing at a 1980s clip, we’d need three times as many new housing units.” 

But the uneasy balance could be upset by a sharper slowdown in the immediate future. The state’s current growth rate, Walters added, “is scarcely a third of the nation’s fastest-growing state, Utah, which posted a 2.03 percent gain between 2015 and 2016. It’s also less than half of the rate in rival Texas.”


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  1. Standing Fast
    Standing Fast 6 January, 2017, 14:58

    This news does not bother me too much because I think California is getting awfully crowded. I would like local government officials to stop with the push for more housing. If prices are going up because houses and apartments are scarce, that is good. It means that our communities will become more stable and we’ll be able to get to know our neighbors.

    Reply this comment
    • prado
      prado 6 January, 2017, 16:44

      Higher house prices should be good for would-be middle and low income homebuyers

      Reply this comment
    • Spookk
      Spookk 12 January, 2017, 14:26

      The fewer people who live in CA, the better the rest are – just like the world in general.

      Reply this comment
      • Standing Fast
        Standing Fast 13 January, 2017, 13:13

        Well, you see, it’s like this.

        The reason the world population has been skyrocketing in the past two hundred years is because of the industrial revolution that gave us the wonders of modern commercial agriculture. There are more places in the world now where the abundance of food precipitates higher birth rates, and the availability of modern medicine a lower death rate (although at some point you would think these two numbers would balance out). Maybe the solution is to return, more or less, to old-fashioned smaller-farming operations where crops can be rotated, livestock grazed on the fallow fields, pests are more or less controlled with wise practices (it is being done, folks, right here in America), etc. No, I am not a greenie or a climate-change chicken-little. I am a throwback to 18th-century American political thinking. I was born two hundred years too late. But, since I am stuck here in the 21st century surrounded by the foolishness of the world, I am glad to be able to share what I think I know with all of you.

        Reply this comment
  2. Richard Rider
    Richard Rider 7 January, 2017, 08:42

    Nobody leaves California for better weather. But leave they do.

    Consider California’s net domestic migration (migration between states).  From 1992 through 2016, California lost a NET 4.0 million people to other states.  Net departures slowed in 2008 only because people couldn’t sell their homes.  But more people still leave each year — in 2016 we lost 109,000.

    Again, note that these are NET losses. Sadly, our policies have split up many California families.

    It’s likely that it’s not the welfare kings and queens departing.  They are primarily the young, the educated, the productive, the entrepreneurial, the ambitious, the wealthy (such as Tiger Woods) – and retirees seeking to make their nest-eggs provide more bang for the buck.

    Reply this comment
    • Driver
      Driver 10 January, 2017, 13:23

      California’s weather is highly overrated. People finally get tired of being ransacked and more to a state that values liberty more than sexual freedom. Those tend to get confused a lot these days.

      Reply this comment
      • Standing Fast
        Standing Fast 16 January, 2017, 17:05

        Thank you. I wholeheartedly endorse your comment about liberty. As for your comment about California’s weather, I can tell you that barring any unforeseen changes, it is the reason my husband and I are planning to stay put. Although I can say that if California secedes it will be a sorry day for me.

        Reply this comment
    • Standing Fast
      Standing Fast 13 January, 2017, 13:14

      So, what are you saying? California is being taken over by uninvited guests?

      Reply this comment
      • Richard Rider
        Richard Rider 15 January, 2017, 08:00

        Standing fast — Strange question. Net domestic migration is a measure of the attractiveness of one state vs. another — attractiveness to people who already live here. It has nothing to do with the pros and cons of international migration.

        Reply this comment
  3. Sean
    Sean 7 January, 2017, 08:55

    I grew up on Southern California and left as soon as I was done with my education. Buying a house there would have required 2 incomes back then. I suppose it takes more than that now (significant cash gifts for down payments from family). Low priced housing was sold via a lottery and often changed hands 5 times before it was occupied with the first family living in it who paid the market rate. Then there are the boom and bust cycles that occur about every 10-15 years where home values suddenly drop 30-50%. California is a great place if you are well off, get lucky when can buy during a recession and have enough money to survive the economic cycles. Through it all, the structural problems in housing never go away nor will the zoning and environmental restrictions that make expansion of the housing stock so difficult. If you are young family looking for good home value in decent school districts, you’ll more likely find it in another state.

    Reply this comment
  4. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 7 January, 2017, 10:26

    We want your business.

    Finding doomer redneck Utopias is our long time speciality.

    We throw in a complete DvD of Duck Dynasty stuff, rare deep hollow maps to secondary roads in West Virginia, a six pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon and those hot value coupons to Cracker Barrell and Waffle House everyone covets!

    Start the year right with Uly..

    Reply this comment
    • JimmyDeeOC
      JimmyDeeOC 7 January, 2017, 14:26

      Don’t you ever tire of your juvenile silliness, UU? It IS a new year. Time for someone to grow up. Does your retread shtick really make you laugh ?

      Reply this comment
      • Ulysses Uhaul
        Ulysses Uhaul 8 January, 2017, 11:00


        Levity is all that’s left…… could you not see you need to laugh going down the slide to an economic/cultural nightmare!

        You’re forgiven-

        Reply this comment
        • Richard Rider
          Richard Rider 15 January, 2017, 08:04

          You claim that you own a U-Haul business. You say “we want your business.”

          As a businessman, you’re not being very smart — bragging about this fact without ever telling us HOW to use your service.

          Kindly post your name and business address so we all have the opportunity to avail ourselves of your kind offers to help us move.

          Reply this comment

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