USC Price School of Public Policy

USC Projects Massive California Population Slowdown

USC Projects Massive California Population Slowdown

By Merrill Balassone

Professor Dowell Myers USC professor Dowell Myers co-authored the report.
Photo by Bill Youngblood

A massive slowdown in California’s population growth means the state likely won’t reach 50 million residents until the year 2046, according to a new USC analysis released April 24.

That’s a far slower rate of growth than the latest official projection released in 2007 by the state’s Department of Finance that shows California reaching 50 million residents in the year 2032.

The population slowdown may bring reprieve to a fiscally strapped state under pressure to keep up with infrastructure needs, said report co-author Dowell Myers, professor of urban planning and demography at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy.

“This is surely good news for local governments and taxpayers who are struggling to keep up with the costs of growth,” Myers said. “These projections suggest there is more time to plan a much better future for California.”

The report, published by the Population Dynamics Research Group at USC Price, contains California’s first population projection that includes results from the 2010 census. John Pitkin, a senior research associate in the research group, was lead author of the report.

The declining rate of population growth is due in large part to immigration rates that have reached a plateau. The total percentage of Californians who are foreign born is expected to stay at 27 percent of the total population through 2030, a sharp contrast to the upward rise in immigration in the 1980s and 1990s.

The analysis also estimated that growth among California’s seniors, those 65 and older, will quadruple within the next 20 years, driven by the aging of the large baby boomer generation.

At the same time, growth among the main working-age population ages 25 to 64 is expected to slow, and virtually all the projected growth, or 98 percent, is comprised of native-born children of immigrants, or second-generation immigrants.

“In less than 20 years, the baby boom generation will all be senior citizens, and these projections show their replacements in the workforce will be the children of immigrants,” Pitkin said.

Among the report’s other findings:

  • The ratio of seniors ages 65 and older to those of prime working age, 25 to 64, will soar to 36 seniors per 100 working age in 2030, compared to 21.6 per 100 in 2010.
  • The growth in the population of children virtually will halt in the coming 20 years, with the share of the population made up by children projected to decline from 24.9 percent in 2010 to 20.7 percent in 2030.
  • California’s immigrant population increasingly is long-settled, with those who entered the United States 20 years earlier or more projected to rise to 62.2 percent of all foreign-born residents in 2030, compared to 45.7 percent in 2010.
  • Native Californians form a rapidly growing majority of the state’s population. In 2010, more than 90 percent of children under the age of 10 were native Californians, but major increases are expected for adults. In 2030, 57.2 percent of adults ages 35 to 44 will have been born in California, up from 38.5 percent in 2010.

Myers, a demographer and policy planner, is director of the Population Dynamics Research Group at USC Price. He is author of the books, Analysis With Local Census Data: Portraits of Change and Immigrants and Boomers: Forging a New Social Contract for the Future of America.

Pitkin is a demographer and senior research associate in the research group at USC Price. He also is president of Analysis and Forecasting Inc., located in Cambridge, Mass. He was principal designer of the population projection models.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Los Angeles-based John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation, First 5 L.A. and USC Price provided funding for the research.