Demographer: Ideal California Population Would Be 20 Million, But....

...38 million people are already here, explains USC Professor Dowell Myers in response to the question, "Is California's growth slow-down a problem?" Myers new research is on the implications of the state's baby bust.

3 minute read

February 8, 2013, 10:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid

Rachael Myrow interviews University of Southern California Professor Dowell Myers on his research published last month, "California's Diminishing Resource: Children (PDF)". The five-minute interview can be found on The California Report.  While there is no accompanying text, Myrow's blog does include exact quotes and serves as an excellent summary of the interview.

According to Myers, who "analyzed data from the 2010 census and the American Community Survey....California faces a potential demographic disaster" as the Baby Boomers enter retirement age. In addition to a reduced birth rate, migration from other states has reversed - more out than in, and immigration as slowed drastically. The implications are serious.

In 1970, California averaged 21 seniors for every 100 working-age adults. By 2030, that ratio is expected to rise to 36 seniors for every 100 working-age adults. The pool of retirees at any given time relies on the pool of working adults to pay the taxes that support the social safety net - and to buy the houses of Baby Boomers planning to finance their retirement in Palm Springs with the proceeds.

The state's Dept. of Finance released population growth projections on Jan. 31 that are consistent with Myer's report. The state's population is expected to reach 50 million by 2049, according to the very detailed 4-page press release, including additional charts and maps (PDF). The Sacrament Bee's Phillip Reese and Anita Creamer write that according to that report, "California's long run as a boom state will sputter to an end as population growth rates consistently fall below 1 percent a year." While the implications for the economy, particularly the housing market, are serious, "(m)any will nonetheless welcome a pause. As [Jeff Michael, director of the Business Forecasting Center at the University of the Pacific] and others noted, population growth has also fed the sprawl, traffic and pollution that have diminished the state's reputation."

Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters writes about the changing ethnic composition of the state that will occur this year.

By the middle of this year, demographers believe, Latinos will achieve numerical parity with whites in California's population, at about 39 percent each. Thereafter, the gap between the state's two largest ethnic blocs will widen steadily.

Putting it another way, the state's population is expected to grow by 15.4 million between 2010 and 2060, and Latinos will account for 11.3 million of that growth.
Or still another way: Overall growth over the 50-year period will be 41 percent, but the Latino population will grow by 80 percent, while that of whites by a minuscule 4 percent.
Even with population growth below 1% a year, California can be expected to add 300,000 people a year, primarily by birth, "but the rate of growth will be akin to places that Americans have historically left behind to try their luck here", write Reese and Creamer.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 in KQED News Fix

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