Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Growth in State Slows to a Torrent
California's population grew at a less-frenzied pace last year, up 1.5%. Still, its 36.8 million people now account for one in eight Americans.
By Daryl Kelley Times Staff Writer May 3, 2005
California grew last year at the slowest pace since the recession of the 1990s as birthrates leveled off, immigration fell and more people left the state, population experts reported Monday. Nonetheless, the state grew by more than half a million people for the sixth straight year in 2004, and Californians now account for one in eight Americans, according to the state Department of Finance.
The last time a single state represented such a large part of the total population was in 1860, when New York state represented nearly as large a proportion, officials said. California added 539,000 residents last year — up 1.5% — to a total of 36.8 million. By comparison, the state's annual growth peaked at about 689,000 new residents, growing 2.0%, in 2000 — the biggest increase since the end of the 1980s building boom. "These numbers show that California is still attractive to both people from other countries and within the nation," said state demographer Linda Gage."But our actual rate of growth is continuing to slow down, and that's been happening since 2001. "That's because immigration — legal and illegal — has fallen from an estimated peak of 291,000 four years ago to about 227,000 last year, the state reported. Meanwhile, births have stabilized.
But the biggest change has occurred in how many people are leaving this state for others, compared with those who settle here from other states. Numerous reports have cited housing prices as a key reason for the exodus. California gained only 55,000 residents in net domestic migration last year, compared with 146,000 new residents in 2000. "We're still growing a little faster than the nation overall, but we're not growing fast by California's historical standards — and we're not growing like Arizona and Nevada," said demographer Hans Johnson of the Public Policy Institute of California.
California remains a leading destination for foreign immigrants, but not as much as 10 or 15 years ago, when about one-third of all Latino immigrants moved first to California, Johnson said. Today about one-quarter of Latino immigrants begin their American experience here, he said. The cost of living — especially housing — is driving immigrants and others out of state, Johnson said, and those who stay head inland to escape pricey coastal communities. Indeed, while spotlighting the population explosion of the Inland Empire and the Central Valley, the state report also revealed the slow growth of San Francisco and Oakland and the counties of Marin, Monterey, Sonoma, Santa Cruz and San Mateo. All grew by less than 1% last year.
Among the state's 58 counties, Riverside was the only one to rank in the top 10 in population, numerical change and percentage change — a distinction it has achieved four straight years."The growth in Riverside County is just truly phenomenal," Gage, the state demographer, said. Riverside County grew to nearly 1.9 million residents after ranking first in percentage growth, 3.8%, and second in total number of new residents, 69,142.That placed it behind Los Angeles County, which gained 119,055 new residents and continued as the nation's largest county, with about 10.2 million inhabitants. Although the periods that were studied differed slightly, the state report contradicted a recently released survey by the U.S. Census Bureau that found Riverside County had more new residents in 2003-04 than Los Angeles County. Gage said the federal estimate was based on tax returns and undercounted residents in poorer communities with more immigrants, such as Los Angeles.
State demographers used more and varied data — such as driver's licenses, Medi-Cal recipients and birthrates — in their estimates, which showed about 700,000 more residents than the federal estimate.
San Bernardino County ranked third, gaining 48,252 new residents; and San Diego County was fourth, with a population gain of 38,266. Among Southland counties, San Bernardino closely followed Riverside's torrid pace of growth, increasing by 2.5%. However, sparsely populated Imperial County actually had the region's second-highest rate of growth, 3%, about 4,700 new residents. Orange County grew 1.1% and now has 3,056,865 residents. San Diego County grew 1.3%, to 3,051,280. Ventura County grew 1.1%, for a population of 813,052. Among cities, those in Riverside and San Bernardino counties also stood out, with the desert communities of Beaumont, Victorville, Indio, Adelanto, Coachella, La Quinta and Palm Desert all growing between 8% and 14.1% in one year. Victorville alone saw 8,326 new residents.Beaumont's 14.1% growth rate was third-fastest in the state, behind the tiny San Mateo County municipality of Colma, 21%, and 17% growth in Lincoln, in the Sierra foothills near Sacramento.
Los Angeles added more people than any other city, 44,092, to reach a population of 3,957,875. But Sacramento experienced the fastest growth rate among large cities, 1.9%, followed by San Jose at 1.5% and Fresno at 1.4%. Among moderate-sized cities, Bakersfield grew most, by 13,222 residents, followed by the Sacramento suburb Elk Grove with 11,626 new residents, Chula Vista in San Diego County with about 9,000 and Irvine with about 8,800. In Los Angeles County, upscale Agoura Hills was the fastest-growing city, with a population increase of 5.4%, or nearly 1,200 new residents, while Palmdale and Lancaster shared nearly 10,000 new high-desert residents between them
County % change
San Luis Obispo
*Jan. 1, 2004 to Jan. 1, 2005--Source: California Department of Finance
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