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Newsfeed: California’s Population Shrinks for Third Straight Year as High Costs Stress Households

Births outnumber deaths in California, and yet the U.S. Census Bureau says the population shrank again as more than 300,000 people moved out of the Golden State.

The federal agency released these new numbers Thursday showing a third consecutive year of decline.

In 2020, California’s population contracted for the first time in state history, a drop that contributed to the state losing a seat in the House of Representatives.

Between July 2021 and July 2022, the number of California residents dropped from 39,142,991 to 39,029,342 — a loss of about 114,000 people, the new data shows. There were more births than deaths in the state, and 125,715 immigrants made their homes here in that one-year span.

Most of the population decline was explained by the 343,230 people who moved to other U.S. states.

H.D. Palmer, deputy director of external affairs at the California Department of Finance, said the rate of decline had slowed, a sign, he said, that net growth was in the future.

California has had a net loss of residents to “domestic migration” for years, he said, and the more recent numbers are “relatively in line with what the historical trend has been.” Palmer said that “some people — for reasons other than demographics, and more politics — try to jump on some of the out-migration numbers.”

But the population decline also partly reflects failures in state policy: California is in a housing affordability crisis.

“If you talk to demographers, they’ll say that one of the factors is the cost of housing,” Palmer said. “And that’s continued to be a challenging issue for the state.”

The Public Policy Institute of California reported that between 2015 and 2021, 413,000 adults cited housing as a primary reason they moved out of state; a majority of those leaving were middle- or low-income people. The institute’s state survey found that 64% of adults in California say housing affordability is “a big problem” where they live.

The out-migration may be partly attributable to work-from-home policies instituted during the pandemic. Those policies fueled in-state migration out of expensive housing markets such as the Bay Area and to more affordable places, including Sacramento. Palmer said it’s likely that some people also left the state altogether.


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