LA is no longer a city of newcomers, study finds
By Merrill Balassone
Los Angeles — a city of newcomers? Not anymore, according to new demographic projections released March 12 by USC’s Population Dynamics Research Group.
The report, “The Generational Future of Los Angeles: Projections to 2030 and Comparisons to Recent Decades,” estimated that by the end of the year, a majority of Los Angeles County residents will be California natives — for the first time in recorded history. By 2030, two-thirds of young adults — the new workers, taxpayers and home buyers — will have been born and raised in the state, what researchers said amounts to a “homegrown revolution.”
“It’s an extraordinary moment in Los Angeles history — everything we know about LA will change,” said report co-author Dowell Myers, a professor of policy, planning and demography at the USC Price School of Public Policy and director of the Population Dynamics Research Group.
“With slower growth and change, we may find it easier, certainly less frantic, to keep up with public needs for new services and private demands for new development,” Myers said.
Previous trends that defined the city — including a sharp rise in immigration and rapid ethnic change — have slowed, beginning in 1990 and more dramatically in the last decade.
The annual flow of new immigrants to LA County has plunged to less than one-quarter of what was seen at the peak of immigration in 1990. As a result, immigrants living in LA are becoming increasingly long-settled, with roots in the country that have developed for decades.
By 2030, it’s estimated that nearly two-thirds of immigrants, or 66 percent, will have lived in the United States for more than 20 years, up from 18 percent in 1990, the report projected.
In addition, rates of racial and ethnic change have also slowed sharply, resulting in what researchers project will be a prolonged period when all ethnic groups are minorities in LA.
While the Latino share of the population in the county grew by 10 percentage points in the 1980s, its growth slowed to just a 3.2 percentage point increase from 2000 to 2010. The new projections showed the Latino population share rising just 2 percentage points per decade through 2030. Conversely, the white population has been slowing its decline from the rapid descent of earlier decades.
The report also showed that the number of children being born in LA County is precipitously declining. Consequently, the number of children under age 10 living in the county is projected to drop 15 percent from 2010 to 2020, on top of last decade’s 17 percent loss of children in that age group.
At the same time, baby boomers are reaching retirement age. The proportion of elderly residents in LA is expected to nearly double from 9.7 percent in 2000 to 18.2 percent in 2030, the report projected.
More telling is what researchers call the “senior ratio,” which compares the number of elderly to prime working-age residents ranging in age 25 to 64. This ratio has held nearly constant since 1980, but it is expected to soar from a level of about 20 seniors per 100 working-age adults to 36.4 seniors per 100 working-age adults by 2030, posing a burden on the working-age residents far greater than the norm in recent decades.
“Much better policymaking is enabled by this foresight,” Myers said. “Our challenge has been how to help the taxpayers and voters see ahead well enough to increase public investment in the next generation. This is vital to the future prosperity of Los Angeles.”
The growing imbalance between children and retirees means that the economic role of a child born in 2015 (and reaching age 25 in 2040) will be more than twice as large as that of a child born in 1985, the report suggested.
“The advantage of having these projections is that they enable the residents of Los Angeles to better envision the depth and length of trends that have already begun,” said report co-author John Pitkin, senior research associate in the Population Dynamics Research Group.
The bottom line of the projections is continued low population growth in Los Angeles: The low growth of the last decade is projected to continue from 2010 to 2020, with an increase of 312,347 people, and revive somewhat from 2020 to 2030, with a projected increase of 481,579 residents. In comparison, LA gained nearly 1.4 million residents from 1980 to 1990.
First 5 LA and the Los Angeles-based John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation provided funding for the research drawn on in this report.