More California woes: State’s population dips for first time in history

One week after California learned that it will lose a U.S. House seat for the first time in the state’s history, officials on Friday announced that the state’s population dropped for the first time since California became a state 171 years ago.

The nation’s most populous state lost more than 180,000 people between January 2020 and January 2021 – a 0.46 decline –  according to state Department of Finance data.

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Officials said the dip was due to “continuing declines” in immigration and the birth rate and a surge in deaths due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“In recent years, the slowdown in natural increase – a nationwide trend affecting California more than other states – has contributed to the state’s population growth slowing and plateauing,” state officials wrote. “The addition of 2020’s COVID-19-related deaths, combined with immigration restrictions in the past year, tipped population change to an annual loss.”

Census data released last week showed that California last decade witnessed its slowest growth rates ever – likely fueled partially by high costs of living and a housing shortage – resulting in the state losing a House seat for the first time. The state’s delegation will drop from 53 to 52.

The new data were quickly used by opponents of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is facing a recall election later this year. Critics of the governor are pointing to the state’s numerous regulations, as well as California’s restrictions amid the pandemic, as the causes behind the population dip.

John Cox, one of the leading Republican gubernatorial candidates running in the recall election, took to Twitter to argue that “State officials like pretty boy @GavinNewsom should look in the mirror. They are driving thousands of families from California.”

Another top-tier GOP recall contender, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, tweeted that “the numbers don’t lie. People are leaving our state because it’s not affordable to live here. One party rule has made it amost impossibble to raise a family. It’s time for a change.”

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But state officials say the population drop is probably temporary.

“As pandemic-related deaths decline and with changes in federal policy, California is expected to return to a slightly positive annual growth when calendar year 2021 population estimates are released in May 2022,” the report predicted.

 

 


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