California Sees Lowest Population Growth in Over a Century as Citizens Migrate to Other States

Clouds gather over the skyline of San Francisco, 2014. (Robert Galbraith/Reuters)

In recent months, California recorded its lowest level of population growth in over a century, according to data from the state’s Department of Finance.

The data showed a 0.35% growth rate in the state’s population from July 1, 2018 through July 1, 2019. That rate is even lower than the 0.57% growth rate recorded for the same period from 2017 to 2018, the two lowest growth rates in the state since 1900.

Moreover, while growth from birth rates and legal immigration continue to swell the population, citizens are leaving the state in large numbers for other parts of the U.S.

“This [is] the first time since the 2010 Census that California had more people leaving the state than moving in from abroad or other states,” the report read. Negative domestic migration and lower birthrates together contributed to the slow population growth. One of the most prominent factors pushing people out of the state is the high price of housing.

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“For some years after the Great Recession housing crunch, California was losing domestic migrants — but not as much as it could have,” said William Frey, a senior demographer at the Brookings Institution, in comments to the Los Angeles Times. “Now that’s starting to push up again.” Frey added that residents are mostly settling in Western states including Oregon, Nevada, Texas, and Arizona, seeking a lower cost of living and in some cases the absence of an income tax.

“The outmigration is in places where housing prices are high and therefore immigration is not being able to counter that,” Frey said. California has “lost its luster a little bit…it’s kind of a stunner to see that California is losing migrants. The land of dreams and the gold rush and all that, now turned the other direction.”

A study by the Times and UC Berkeley released in November revealed that over half of registered voters in California are considering leaving the state. Around 40 percent of those considering moving are conservative, while only 14 percent are liberal.

California is struggling with a burgeoning homeless population, with over 60,000 homeless in Los Angeles county alone. In October the state saw a string of wildfires that forced utility company PG&E to institute preemptive blackouts to around two million customers, to avoid sparking fires from power lines.

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