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California population rises after long slump; immigration offset birth decline


(The Center Square) – California’s population rose by just over 67,000 — for the first time since 2019, says the California Department of Finance in its latest estimates for 2023. While population estimates must always be taken with a grain of salt, CDOF notably estimated a greater population loss in 2022 than the United States Census, suggesting the estimate may even be conservative.

As the state faces a $73 billion deficit, higher than expected population growth could be good news. However, a Los Angeles Times analysis found that while the state used to attract wealthier, more educated individuals, and that those leaving the state tended to be poorer and less educated, that trend has since flipped, with newcomers tending to be poorer than those leaving. Given this change, California’s replacement of higher-income individuals with lower-income individuals who may use more government services than they pay for in taxes could worsen the state’s budget deficit.

“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,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom in a statement. “From the Inland Empire to the Bay Area, regions throughout California are growing – strengthening local communities and boosting our state’s future.”

California’s population declined by a CDOF estimated 138,443 in 2022, and has turned around due to: an increase in greater international and domestic in-migration, reduced domestic out-migration, and growth in natural increase — having more births than deaths — due to deaths declining faster than the birth rate, which also declined. Foreign immigration increased from 90,300 in 2022 to 114,200 in 2023 — a figure “not including people seeking asylum at the border.” While there were 420,393 California births in 2022, there were only 399,368 in 2023, suggesting families are continuing to leave and newcomers don’t have as many children.

In 2023, California also added an estimated 115,933 housing units, roughly the same as was completed in 2022. With the population now growing and housing permitting having collapsed 45% in 2023, housing could get even more scarce in the state in the coming years, as fewer permitted projects results in fewer completed homes.