California’s growth rate shrinks to lowest on record—and that has implications for seniors

California’s population growth has slipped from .78% in 2017 to .47% in 2018, the slowest growth rate recorded since the state’s Department of Finance began collecting the data in 1900.

California added 186,807 residents to bring the state’s estimated total population to 39,927,315. Long Beach’s population has decreased by .2%, making us the seventh largest city in the state.

According to Doug Kuczynski of the Department of Finance, the state has seen a wide decrease in immigration and birth rates with a steady increase in deaths, particularly among the state’s aging Baby Boomer population. Add onto a statewide housing crisis and disasters like the Camp Fire in Butte County, effectively eradicating 90% of the housing stock in the town of Paradise, and the state has witnessed its slowest growth in recorded history.

State officials said upon release of the data that they expected the state’s birth rate to decline but were shocked by how much: births were down by 18,000 when compared to the previous year, one of the steepest drops in recent history. Tina Daley, chief of California’s Demographic Research Unit, noted teen pregnancy rates are declining and, in general, people are waiting longer to have children.

“The overall profile of immigrants to California is higher education, which correlates to lower fertility,” Ethan Sharygin, a demographer with the California Department of Finance, told the Los Angeles Times. “With native-born, we see a long-running trend throughout the U.S., where fertility has been trending downward… More education of women translates into later marriage, later childbirth and then fewer children.”

The connection to housing is not only a more pressing issue but a more complex one as well: It is largely older populations, particularly Baby Boomers, who are strongly opposing the construction of multi-family complexes near or around their single-family home neighborhoods. The lack of units being constructed—between 2010 and 2016, Long Beach had 17 people moving here for every one housing permit granted—has resulted in a market that is unaffordable for the everyday Californian.

The creation of this expensive market means that younger people (i.e. potential parents) are less likely to invest and stay here, which means that the senior population—the fastest growing age group in the state—will have fewer people paying taxes, fewer people to take care of them, and a rise in programs that seniors depend on, from state-subsidized healthcare to nursing facilities.

“Old people are holding in place, but we are losing the younger generation—we are losing potential parents,” Dowell Myers, professor of demography and urban planning at USC, told the Los Angeles Times. “It is a slow-moving train wreck here… Growth in California has stalled out and that is pretty amazing.”

According to projection data from the Department of Finance, by the year 2026, the number of Californians over the age of 65 will increase by 2.1 million. In stark contrast, the number of 25- to 64-year-olds is projected to grow by a little more than half a million; the number of Californians younger than 25 will grow by a mere 2,500.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.