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California’s Future: Population

Hans Johnson | January 2019


California has long been known for, and even defined by, its tremendous population growth. In 2018, the state almost certainly reached another demographic milestone, becoming the first to reach 40 million residents. Texas, the state with the second-largest population, has not yet reached 30 million. Equally remarkable is California’s diversity: its population includes large groups of immigrants from more than 60 countries, and no single race or ethnic group constitutes a majority. The rate of population growth has slowed in recent decades, but the number of people added to the state’s population has been substantial—323,000 each year, on average, from 2010 through 2017.

California is gearing up for the decennial census in 2020. An accurate count is crucial, as the census is used to allocate billions of dollars in federal funding and determine the number of congressional districts in each state. The state, along with community organizations and others, will need to make extra efforts to ensure that all Californians are counted. California has long had disproportionate shares of populations that are difficult to count, including young adults, renters, and immigrants. The challenge is particularly acute now. Not only is the 2020 Census underfunded, but federal rhetoric and actions on border security, deportation, and immigrant rights—along with the possible inclusion of a question about citizenship—could dampen participation. PPIC research shows that a poor count would cost California a seat in the House of Representatives; with an accurate count, the state might gain a seat.

This publication is part of a briefing kit that highlights our state’s most pressing long-term policy challenges in 11 key areas:

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the PPIC Corporate Circle and the PPIC Donor Circle.

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