State Estimates Show Third Year of Population Loss for California

Demographic data from the California Department of Finance released last month shows a third consecutive year of population loss, mirroring Census data. Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties saw the highest numeric losses.

2 minute read

February 5, 2023, 9:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid

Aerial view of coastline with homes in Encinitas, California

Kyle Sprague / Encinitas, California

“California’s population declined 0.54% to [39,028,571] people, a loss of over 210,000 people,” reported Roland Li and Yuri Avila for the San Francisco Chronicle on January 26.

A sharp decrease in migration to California and roughly 100,000 total coronavirus pandemic deaths led to statewide population drops for the first time in a century, starting in 2020.

San Francisco, and the entire Bay Area, lost population during the second year of the pandemic, and California’s population continued to fall for the third year in a row, according to state estimates [PDF] released Thursday.

Comparison With Census Data

The population estimate is remarkably similar (difference is <1,000 people) to what the U.S. Census Bureau had reported in December, posted here, although the Census put the loss much lower, at 0.29 percent.

California had a population of 39,029,342 on July 1, 2022, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Vintage 2022 national and state population estimates and components of change released Dec. 22, 2022.

[Planetizen exclusiveU.S. Population Growing Again in 2022 After Flatlining in 2021, Dec. 27, 2022]

Bay Area Population Loss

“The nine-county Bay Area saw some of the steepest population declines in the state — ranging from Napa’s loss of about 1,800 people to Santa Clara’s loss of over 16,500 people, second only to Los Angeles County’s 113,000-person plunge in the state,” add Li and Avila.

What's notable according to the table titled, “Population change by Bay Area county, 2021-22,” is that San Francisco's population loss of 4,400 people or 0.5percent during that period, down significantly from the prior year, was the lowest, percentage-wise, for the 9-county region. Marin, the region's second least populous county, led with a loss of 1.5 percent, followed by Napa (least populous)  and San Mateo counties, with declines of 1.3 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.

Chief Reason for Population Loss Remains Unchanged

While the numbers may fluctuate a bit from year to year, the chief cause of the population loss is remarkably consistent, note Li and Avila.

San Francisco’s, and the Bay Area’s, losses were driven by a net domestic migration [sic], as many residents left the region and state for cheaper housing options.

Related in Planetizen:

Thursday, January 26, 2023 in San Francisco Chronicle

Aerial view of snowy single-family homes in suburban Long Island, New York

New York Governor Advances Housing Plan Amid Stiff Suburban Opposition

Governor Kathy Hochul’s ambitious proposal to create more housing has once again run into a brick wall of opposition in New York’s enormous suburbs, especially on Long Island. This year, however, the wall may have some cracks.

March 20, 2023 - Mark H. McNulty

Yellow on black "Expect Delays" traffic sign

A Serious Critique of Congestion Costs and Induced Vehicle Travel Impacts

Some highway advocates continue to claim that roadway expansions are justified to reduce traffic congestion. That's not what the research shows. It's time to stop obsessing over congestion and instead strive for efficient accessibility.

March 14, 2023 - Todd Litman

Empty parking garage at night with yellow lines marking spots and fluorescent lighting

Rethinking the Role of Parking in the American City

In cities big and small, the tide is turning against sprawling parking lots, car-centric development, and minimum parking mandates.

March 16, 2023 - The New York Times


Mapping Sidewalks for Improved Connectivity

A new tool uses aerial image recognition to map a city’s sidewalks and crosswalks. Its developers hope it will aid in creating a more comprehensive understanding of pedestrian networks and where improvements are needed.

March 22 - MIT News

A light rail train waits at the Downtown Long Beach station with a sign that reads “Long Beach” to declare its route to riders.

Long Beach Residents Oppose Proposed Homeless Services Hub Near Rail Terminus

L.A. Metro’s “end-of-the-line” policy forces people experiencing homeless off transit every night at the same time and location. A proposed hub would provide services a few stops before the end of the line in Long Beach.

March 22 - Long Beach Post

A hypothetical map of the state of Idaho, expanded by annexing a large portion fo Oregon. The map is emblazoned with the words “Greater Idaho.”

The Nation's Most Advanced Secessionist Movement

Legislation supporting the Greater Idaho Movement, which would annex over half of neighboring Oregon, has advanced in the Idaho legislature.

March 22 - FOX News

Planner II

City of Greenville

Planner I

City of Greenville

Rural Projects Coordinator (RARE AmeriCorps Member)

Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) AmeriCorps Program

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

HUD’s 2023 Innovative Housing Showcase

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.