California exodus left a gaping population hole. Can the Golden State bounce back?

Despite a recent uptick in population, California still has a long way to go to make up for the exodus that began in 2019 and accelerated during the pandemic.

Though the state population grew 0.17% in 2023 — the first year of growth since the COVID-19 pandemic — California is still 1.2% smaller than it was in 2019, according to a Times data analysis.

If the state continues to grow at the same pace, it would take almost eight more years for California’s population to reach its pre-pandemic high-water mark.

But experts said it’s still hard to know how quickly the state can rebound.

California’s population declined largely because of a drop in international migration linked to pandemic travel restrictions, deaths from COVID-19 and a large number of people leaving for states with more affordable housing.

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Some factors that led to the exodus are easing. Companies have been calling employees back to the office, making remote work situations more difficult. Major cities such as San Francisco saw some of the biggest increases in population last year, but they were also the hardest hit by the exodus.

Yet high housing prices remain a huge barrier and show no signs of easing.

A new poll underscores the challenges. The survey, conducted by the Los Angeles Business Council Institute in partnership with the Los Angeles Times, found nearly three-quarters of renters and those younger than 35 have given consideration to moving out of L.A. About 37% of homeowners and 26% of those 65 or older have also considered moving, the poll found.

“The state has experienced a chronic housing shortage for decades,” said Sarah Karlinsky, research director for the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley.

The housing squeeze has put people “in substandard housing conditions,” and “a little bit of a breather in the housing market might allow someone who is doubling, tripling, quadrupling up to find a place of their own,” she said.

So many are “teetering on the edge or have fallen into homelessness,” Karlinsky said, and for them the state will need more subsidized affordable housing.

When the state adds to its housing stock, she said, it shouldn’t just be adding high-rises, but also “more affordable multifamily housing options” that might be smaller and cheaper.

Cities may begin to boost their population as businesses end work-from-home policies, but Karlinsky cautioned that “if everybody is driving back into their jobs, then that is going to be incredibly unpleasant.”

On a numeric basis, Los Angeles County has the most ground to make up: It still has about 340,000 fewer people than it did in 2019.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

California’s population grew in 2023, halting 3 years of decline, state estimates

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The nation’s most populous state is growing again, ending a trend of population decline that had dogged Gov. Gavin Newsom through much of his tenure.

California gained just over 67,000 people last year, the first increase since 2019, according to an estimate released Tuesday by the state Department of Finance.

After joining the United States in 1850 on the heels of a gold rush, California was a demographic marvel for its first 169 years — adding population every year as people flocked to the Golden State for its stunning terrain, weather and super-sized economy, which is larger than those of all but four countries.

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That streak ended in 2020, when California lost population for the first time during a pivotal census year that led to the state losing a congressional seat. Newsom’s partisan critics said the state’s high cost of living, uncertain power supply, a housing and homelessness crisis and concerns about crime were partly to blame. For a two-year period, Californians moving to Texas made up the largest state-to-state movement in the U.S., according to U.S. Census data — a fact often shared by Republicans eager to slam Newsom.

But the Democratic governor, who is widely considered a future presidential candidate, had reason to celebrate Tuesday, as state estimates showed a return to the formula that has powered California’s growth in recent years: A strong influx of legal international immigration, fewer deaths following the coronavirus pandemic and a reduction in the number of people leaving California for other states.

“People from across the nation and the globe are coming to the Golden State to pursue the California Dream and experience the success of the world’s 5th largest economy,” Newsom said in a news release.

Tuesday’s estimate — representing a 0.17% growth rate — can hardly be called a surge. But state officials were confident that it signaled a return to more normal population patterns after years of pandemic disruption.

Legal immigration to California from other countries stalled during and just before the coronavirus pandemic amid a spate of travel restrictions and tightened rules under then-President Donald Trump. It rebounded last year, though, with a net gain of 114,200 people, which was nearly its pre-pandemic level.

State officials called it “a stable foundation for continued growth” — although that growth will likely be a lot smaller than it had been, said Eric McGhee, senior fellow for the Public Policy Institute of California.

“It’s going to be better for the state in terms of its total population,” McGhee said. “It would still, at this rate, not be enough to probably avoid losing more congressional districts in the 2030 census.”

More people still left California for other states in 2023 than moved to California from other states, but it was far less than previous years.

In 2021 — when coronavirus cases were still surging and more people were working remotely — California lost a net 355,648 people because of domestic migration. In 2023, that was down to 91,189. That’s much closer to pre-pandemic trends, according to Walter Schwarm, chief demographer for the California Department of Finance.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

California Population Growth Lags

california-flagMost people think of California as the most desirable state in the union. Naturally it’s assumed that there’s heavy migration into the Golden State, with the population growing at a robust clip.  But for quite a number of years, that has not been the case.

At the bottom of this article are the just-released 50 states’ population figures for this past fiscal year in chart format. The states are listed in order from fastest to slowest growth.  Remember that the population growth of a state is the net total change considering births, deaths, migration between states and international migration.

Yes, the California population IS growing. But in spite of our state’s wonderful physical attributes, the growth is sub-par compared to the nation as a whole. In this latest 12 month period, the nation’s population grew 0.62%.  California grew 0.40%.  Stated differently, the country grew over 50% faster than California. I’ve been following this trend for years, and must report that this trend is not new.

The fastest growing state in this time frame was Nevada — growth that is heavily dependent on relocating Californians.  In a related vein, I should mention when when it comes to departing California businesses, the #2 relocation city is Reno, Nevada.  #3 is Las Vegas.  (#1 is Austin, Texas.)

Idaho is in a virtual tie with Nevada for population growth.  Both states’ population grew over 5 times faster than CA.  Almost all the Idaho growth is in the Boise area.  I think it’s fair to say that not a single Idaho arrival moved there for the weather.

The Texas population grew 1.34% — 3.35 times faster than California.  For the last 15 years, Texas population has grown more than twice as fast as California.

Overall California’s population growth ranked 25th in the nation.  Eight states actually LOST population this past year.  California is not THAT bad.

Yet. …

Click here to read the full article from the Flash Report