News & Politics

California Sees Slowest Population Growth Since 1900

Tents housing homeless line a street in downtown Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

California’s population inched toward 40 million last year, but the state experienced the slowest rate of population growth since 1900.

Why is that? What’s not to like about California? The weather is awesome, the scenery is breathtaking, the people are beautiful, and there’s abundance everywhere.

Except in housing. California is a fabulous place to live — if you’re a millionaire.

Associated Press:

More than 158,000 people moved to California over the 12 month period that ended July 1. But more than 197,000 people left.

“I think it’s so important to remember that even when things are tough, we still see a lot of people moving to California,” said Eddie Hunsinger, a demographer with the state Department of Finance.

Well, you know what P.T. Barnum said: one of them is born every minute.

Jobs are plentiful, the economy is OK, but homelessness went up a staggering 16.7 percent and even if you have a job, good luck finding a place you can afford to live.

The migration loss has been a boon to other states, particularly Nevada. Last month, it passed the 3 million population mark as the U.S. Census Bureau ranked it as the fastest-growing state in 2018 — mostly because of Californians moving in.

Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said there are more adults in Nevada that were born in California than native Nevadans.

The California infection is spreading. The more Californians that show up in Nevada, the more like California Nevada becomes — Disneyland with casinos.

Yikes.

State officials blamed the declining growth rate on an aging population combined with lower migration from foreign countries and more people leaving the state. Births continued to decline, falling by more than 9,000.

“I’m starting to get a sense that this is a trend,” Hunsinger said. “I wouldn’t say it’s concerning … . We have a larger share of the population that is 50-plus, and so with that we see this sort of general tendency toward slower population growth.”

Mr. Hunsinger could find a pony in a manure pile. Of course, he’s paid to be optimistic, so his views can rightfully be dismissed. More to the point, people in California are voting with their feet. And that state seems powerless to stop the first great migration eastward in U.S. history.

Other blue states are in a similar boat. Illinois is a population feeder for Wisconsin, Missouri, and Indiana. Similar situations exist in New York and Pennsylvania. People have discovered how much cheaper and freer things are in neighboring red states — until the migration turns them purple like Nevada or blue like Colorado.

California politicians are oblivious to the existential crisis in their midst. It isn’t just a housing shortage or cost of living that’s nearly unbearable. The faith and optimism that made California the most dynamic and exciting place to live in the United States is gone. The golden goose in the “Golden State” has laid an egg and there’s a question whether can they recover that dynamism that made them a symbol of American exceptionalism.