LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Is the California dream dying?
California’s population dipped by 182,083 residents last year, according to new data released Friday by the California Department of Finance. (Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images)
For the first time since records have been kept, California’s year-to-year population has dropped. State officials say the decrease of slightly more than 182,000 is due to a variety of issues including the pandemic, declining births and increased deaths — also caused by COVID-19.
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“It’s a significant milestone, but it’s temporary,” H.D. Palmer, a spokesperson for the California Department of Finance, said.
Palmer said he expects the numbers to turn around, especially with changes to immigration policy.
“We are a destination state,” he said. “Restrictions in federal policy combined with stay-at-home orders and lockdown orders in other countries that normally would be sending students or migrants from other countries legally to California turn those numbers into a negative.”
Though, Palmer noted, California’s overall growth has been relatively stagnant for multiple years.
“If you look at the data over the past five to 10 years, the overall rate of growth in California’s population has been slowing,” he said. “That’s predominantly due to the fact that we’re seeing a slower birthrate in California and nationwide.”
But lifelong Californians who have left the state said the decline in population goes beyond COVID, birthrates and immigration.
“Many, many, many factors,” Daron Wyatt said. “But the taxation here in California and the cost of living was one serious factor.”
Wyatt spent decades in law enforcement in the state before retiring from the Anaheim Police Department and moving to Wyoming.
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“The cost of living is just so much less,” he said. “Max of 6% sales tax, property tax 0.61%, so half of what we were paying in California, no state income tax. Our building permit to build a house was $200.”
“The typical pattern for California over the last 30 years is people move out of California to other states and then we backfill that with immigration into California from other countries,” Eric McGhee, a senior fellow at PPIC, said.
McGhee, who studies and analyzes data, said the numbers also paint a picture of who’s moving in and who’s moving out.
“The people who are moving from California to other states are generally poorer and middle income people,” he said. “The people moving into California tend to be wealthier and they tend to be especially young people, just starting out in their career, sort of the classic tech person.”
Analysts said they expect the state’s growth to pick up again, but cautioned that the pace would be very gradual.
As for Wyatt, he said he has no plans to return.
“I think, right now, the only draw to California is the weather,” he said. “But I don’t think the cost of living is worth that weather.”
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Overall, California’s population grew about 6% from 2010 to 2019.