California’s demographers and those at the federal Census Bureau politely disagreed during the first decade of the 21st century over the number of Californians – and they are at odds again.
Year-by-year, beginning with the 2000 census, state and federal population estimates grew apart, and by the end of the decade, it was a 1.5 million-person disagreement, largely due to differing calculations about how many persons had left California for other states.
The feds saw a large outward migration and estimated California’s population in 2010 at 37.5 million while the state Department of Finance saw less outflow and pegged it at 39 million. The 2010 census settled it in the Census Bureau’s favor, declaring California to have 37.3 million residents.
Four years later, the two agencies are once again in disagreement. This time the Census Bureau is higher, saying this month that California had 38.8 million residents on July 1 while the Department of Finance simultaneously estimated it was 38.5 million on that date.
Once again, the two agencies are disagreeing over the extent of outmigration from California to other states, but this time, the Census Bureau is seeing less movement than the state’s demographers. “Domestic migration is the big cause,” says state demographer John Malson.
It’s not a huge gap – less than 1 percent – but could continue to grow until the 2020 census. And California may hope that the Census Bureau’s higher number is correct because it could determine whether the state gains another congressional seat after the next census or if its delegation remains unchanged.