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May 2011
California's Population
  • California is the most populous state in the nation.
    With just over 37 million people, according to the 2010 Census, California is one and a half times as populous as second-place Texas (25 million). By 2020, California’s population is projected to reach 42 to 48 million people.
  • During the 20th century, California experienced tremendous population growth …
    In 1900, California was home to less than 2 million people; by 1950 the population had reached 10 million. California’s population growth rates slowed in the last half of the 20th century, but even so its population nearly tripled and its growth rate remained much higher than that of the rest of the United States.
  • … but growth has slowed in the past 20 years.
    Over the past 20 years, California has experienced its slowest rates of growth ever recorded and an unprecedented migration of residents to other states. From 2000 to 2010, California’s population grew by 10%, which was low for the state but still higher than the rest of the nation (9.7%). International migration to California remained strong: the state experienced a net inflow of around 2 million. But about 1.5 million more people left California for other states than came to California from other states. Natural increase—more births than deaths—added more than 3 million residents this past decade. Overall, California gained 3.4 million new residents.
  • California’s population is one of the world’s most diverse.
    No race or ethnic group constitutes a majority of the state’s population. According to the 2010 Census, 40% of state residents are non-Hispanic white, 38% are Hispanic, 13% Asian, 6% African American, 3% multiracial, and less than 1% American Indian. Among children, Hispanics are a slight majority (51%).
  • Almost 10 million Californians are immigrants.
    According to 2009 estimates, 27% of Californians (9.9 million) are foreign-born, a higher proportion than in any other state (New York is second with 21%) and twice the nationwide share (13%). The leading countries of origin for these immigrants are Mexico (4.3 million immigrants), the Philippines (783,000), China (681,000), Vietnam (457,000), and El Salvador (413,000).
  • California is aging but is young compared to the rest of the country.
    California’s population is slightly younger than the rest of the nation’s: the median age in California was 34.8, compared to 36.8 for the entire country, according to 2008 Census Bureau estimates. California ranks as the fifth-youngest state (Utah is the youngest). However, California’s population is aging along with the baby boom: by 2030, about one in five Californians will be age 65 or older.
  • California has distinct regions with very different population characteristics.
    The northern coast and mountains of California are lightly populated, with just over 400,000 people spread out over an area of 32,000 square miles and a population density of only 14 people per square mile. At the other extreme is Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest city, with 3.8 million residents, and second-largest metropolitan area, with 18 million inhabitants. Over the past four decades, inland areas of the state have experienced faster growth rates than coastal areas. The Inland Empire (San Bernardino and Riverside Counties), the Sacramento metropolitan area, and the San Joaquin Valley were the fastest growing regions in the 1990s and 2000s.

Sources: California Department of Finance estimates. U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Decennial censuses. American Community Survey.