Browse By

California’s population sees decline for the first time in state’s history

By Destiny De La Cueva and Marvin Alberto

Graph of California’s approximate 182,000 decrease in population from the year 2020 to 2021. Graph and data courtesy of Cal Matters.

In 2020, California fell into a population decline for the first time.

California lost above 189,000 residents, bringing the population to just below 39.5 million, according to California’s Department of Finance. Santa Clarita, which was also seeing steady growth in the population, saw a small decline in the past year. 

“The truth is that decline was foreseen or relatively small. California has almost 40 million residents and we lost less than half of one percent,” stated Robert Wonser, a Sociology Professor from College of the Canyons. 

“We also lost population due to the same forces that the rest of the nation experienced. The Trump administration’s restrictive immigration policies by one estimate cost the state 100,000 residents and 53,000 international students. California, like the nation at large, is experiencing a declining birthrate.”

There has been recent discussion over what is causing people to leave California, with possibilities including a high cost of living, COVID-19 and tax concerns. The pandemic has been the biggest factor in population decrease with more than 61,000 COVID-19 related deaths. 

There has also been a rise in tech companies and wealthy Californians that have been fleeing the Golden State, such as Dropbox CEO Drew Houston and Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, Inc.  

Congressman Mike Garcia believes that the current administration’s tax policies are driving companies away. 

“It’s no secret that California’s high taxes have caused a mass exodus from our state. President Biden’s proposed tax hikes will just cause companies to flee our country, @POTUS’s tax plan is bad for business and bad for America,” tweeted Garcia. 

While there were a number of wealthy residents that left California, the majority of those who are moving to other states are from working class families. 

“People who move into California are very different from those who move out. In general, those who move here are likely to be working age, to be employed, and to earn high wages — and are less likely to be in poverty — than those who move away,” read a report by the Public Policy Institute of California. 

The rising cost of living in the state has been a contributing factor as to why many people are choosing to leave the state. 

 “The trend is such that California is attracting wealthier and higher educated people and forcing those with lower incomes to leave in search of more affordable housing,” stated Wonser. “The state has been experiencing this problem for decades since at least the 1970s. The real problem is an affordable housing shortage.” 

As the cost of living continues to increase, working class and middle class Americans are facing a decision about whether or not they can afford to live in one of the wealthiest states in the country. 

With many wealthy people entering the state and working class people finding other places to live, Wonser poses the question, “whom, then, is California going to be for?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.