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California’s population drops for the first time in recorded state history

Families Enjoy Warm Weather on Santa Monica Beach in Santa Monica, California | Damian Dovarganes / AP Photo

SACRAMENTO – California’s population declined in 2020 for the first time in the state’s recorded history due to deaths from Covid-19, federal immigration restrictions and declining births, officials said on Friday of State.

The country’s most populous state lost more than 180,000 people between January 2020 and January 2021, a drop of 0.46%, according to data released by the State Department of Finance. Although population growth has slowed considerably in recent years, compounded by the high cost of living and a housing shortage, this was the first time California has experienced a real annual decline since the state began recording such data in 1900, according to Finance spokesperson HD Palmer.

Census data last month showed California experienced its lowest growth rate on record in the past decade, leading the state to lose a House seat for the first time.

“Much has been said about the California exodus, and rightly so. This migration, over decades, has the power to reshape the state,” said a separate report from the California Public Policy Institute released Thursday.

Opponents of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who faces a recall election, will be sure to use the historic decline as proof of California’s woes. Republicans have long assaulted state regulations and tax rates as a reason to leave for the Red States, a point punctuated by the departure of Tesla CEO Elon Musk for Texas last year. Critics of Newsom over the past year have pointed to the California pandemic restrictions and school closings as additional reasons to flee.

But state officials insisted on Friday that the population decline was likely unsuccessful due to the unprecedented pandemic, and that California is expected to return to “slight positive annual growth” when the estimates are released. ‘next year.

The biggest loss of California residents in 2020 was due to a continued decline in foreign immigration to the state, “a direct impact” of the Trump administration’s suspension of some visas when the pandemic struck, the ministry said. finances.

The decline in foreign immigration accounted for 100,000 fewer people living in California, according to the state. This includes 53,000 international students who have stayed at home due to global restrictions.

Meanwhile, 51,000 Californians died from the coronavirus in 2020, pushing the average death rate 19% higher than in previous years.

The national downward trend in birth rates is also affecting California more than most states, resulting in a population decline of 24,000, calculated based on annual births less deaths.

“In recent years, slowing natural increase – a national trend affecting California more than other states – has contributed to the slowing and leveling of population growth in the state. The addition of COVID-related deaths- 19 in 2020, combined with immigration restrictions in the past year, the population change has shifted the population to an annual loss, ”the finance ministry said in a statement.

Otherwise, people keep leaving California.

In 28 of the past 30 years, the state has seen more people move than inside, according to state officials. Since 2018, this emigration has overtaken international migration to the state, leaving “natural increase,” or the difference between births and deaths, as the sole source of population growth, the finance ministry said.

The PPIC report threw cold water on political discourse over California’s loss of fed-up wealthy residents, noting that people who move into the state continue to be wealthier and more educated than those who move into the state. leave. High-income residents pay the bulk of California income and property taxes.

Research also shows that people have left the state or moved to cheaper parts of the state to take advantage of telecommuting during the pandemic.

Yet a high cost of living and a severe housing shortage continue to impact the state. The median price of a single-family home in California hit a record high of $ 758,990 in March, almost 24% more than the previous year. Meanwhile, low-income workers have suffered the brunt of job losses from the pandemic as restaurants, tourist attractions and service industries have had to close. California’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in March was 8.3%, tied for the third highest in the country.

“People who move to California have higher incomes than those who move. Some have argued that the opposite is happening – that California’s relatively progressive and high personal income tax rates are driving out income residents. higher. losing low- and middle-income residents to other states for a period of time while continuing to earn higher-income adults, “the report says.

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