Capitol Alert

California’s slow population growth likely to continue

Students raise their hands during a math lesson in his classroom at Raymond Case Elementary School in Elk Grove, Calif. on Thursday, April 18, 2013. California’s population rate continues to grow slowly, mostly because of slowing birth and immigration rates.
Students raise their hands during a math lesson in his classroom at Raymond Case Elementary School in Elk Grove, Calif. on Thursday, April 18, 2013. California’s population rate continues to grow slowly, mostly because of slowing birth and immigration rates. rpench@sacbee.com

California’s once-soaring population growth slowed markedly during the last two decades, barely keeping pace with the nation as a whole since 2000, and a new Census Bureau report indicates that the state’s growth will continue that pattern for the next half-century due largely to slowing birth and immigration rates.

One political effect probably will be that California, long accustomed to gaining congressional seats after every decennial census, will have to be content with little or no change in its 53-member delegation for the foreseeable future.

However, California’s already diverse cultural makeup will continue to evolve, with Latinos, already the state’s largest ethnic group, becoming 48 percent of the state’s population in 2060, according to another projection by the state Department of Finance’s demographic unit.

The Census Bureau estimates that the nation’s population, 308.7 million in 2010, will increase by 35 percent to 416.8 million by 2060. The Department of Finance, meanwhile, projects that California’s population, 37.3 million in 2010, will increase by 41 percent to 52.6 million by 2060.

If that holds, California would be growing a bit faster than the nation as a whole, but likely not enough to trigger anything more – and perhaps less – than an additional seat or two in Congress over that period.

After the 2010 census, California was awarded no new seats for the first time in living memory and that scenario appears likely to continue. The Census Bureau projects an 8.4 percent increase in the nation’s population between 2010 and 2020, for instance, while state demographers see a 9 percent growth for California, a differential that’s likely not large enough to earn California another seat.

Slowing population growth in California will not slow demographic change, however, with the major components being a very slow-growing and very rapidly aging white population, and a fast-growing, relatively young Latino population.

The state sees the white population increasing by just 4 percent between 2010 and 2060 due to a low birth rate and rising mortality among the large Baby Boomer cohort.

Meanwhile, the Latino population is projected to expand by 80 percent to nearly half of the state’s residents by 2060. Latinos, it says, will account for nearly three-quarters of all California population growth during that half-century period.

The state’s African-American population will grow as slowly as its white population, 4 percent, during the 50-year period, the state projects, while the Asian and Pacific Islanders will expand by about 50 percent.

Call The Bee’s Dan Walters, (916) 321-1195. Back columns, www.sacbee.com/walters. Follow him on Twitter

@WaltersBee.

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