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Just the FACTS

California’s Population

    • One out of every eight US residents lives in California.
      With almost 40 million people (according to 2019 estimates), California is the nation’s most populous state—its population is much larger than that of second-place Texas (29 million) and third-place Florida (21 million). California’s population is projected to reach 45 million people by 2050.
    • California experienced tremendous population growth throughout the 20th century…
      In 1900, California was home to fewer than 2 million people; by 1950 the population had reached 10 million. California’s population nearly tripled in the last half of the 20th century, and its growth rate remained much higher than that of the rest of the United States.

California’s population grew dramatically throughout the 20th century

figure - California’s Population Grew Dramatically Throughout the 20th Century

SOURCE: California Department of Finance estimates.

    • …but growth has slowed in recent decades.
      Over the past 20 years, California has experienced its slowest rates of growth ever recorded, and growth has been especially slow since 2017. According to estimates by the California Department of Finance, California’s population grew by 7.3% (or 2.7 million) from 2010 to the end of 2019; this rate is only slightly higher than the national rate of 6.3%. International migration to California has remained strong, with a net inflow of 1.5 million. But net domestic migration has been negative: about 900,000 more people left California for other states than came to California from other states. Natural increase—the difference between births and deaths—added 2.2 million residents. But birth rates are at record lows and the number of deaths is increasing as the population ages.
    • California’s population is diverse.
      No race or ethnic group constitutes a majority of California’s population: 39% of state residents are Latino, 37% are white, 15% are Asian American, 6% are African American, 3% are multiracial, and fewer than 1% are American Indian or Pacific Islander, according to the 2018 American Community Survey. Latinos surpassed whites as the state’s single largest ethnic group in 2014.

California’s population is increasingly diverse

figure - California’s Population Is Increasingly Diverse

SOURCE: California Department of Finance 1970–2000; American Community Survey 2018.

  • More than 10 million Californians are immigrants.
    According to 2018 estimates, 27% (or 10.6 million) of Californians are foreign born—this share is larger than that of any state (New York is second with 23%) and double the share nationwide (14%). The leading countries of origin for California immigrants are Mexico (4.0 million), the Philippines (848,000), China (798,000), Vietnam (515,000), India (532,000), El Salvador (462,000), and Korea (312,000). In recent years, immigration from Asia has outpaced immigration from Latin America by a two-to-one margin.
  • California is aging, but it is young compared to the rest of the country.
    California’s population is aging along with the baby boom; by 2030, about one in five Californians will be 65 or older. But the state’s population is slightly younger than that of the rest of the nation: according to 2018 Census Bureau estimates, the median age in California is 36.7, compared to 38.2 for the entire country. California has the fifth-youngest population in the country (Utah has the youngest).
  • Californians could be undercounted in the 2020 Census.
    The US Census Bureau is conducting its decennial population count this year. Three in four Californians belong to at least one demographic group that is “hard to count”: children, young men, Latino and African American residents, and renters. There is particular concern about low participation rates among non-citizens, given the Trump administration’s hostile posture toward immigration–and its attempt to put a citizenship question on the census form. Another cause for concern is the coronavirus pandemic, which has upended media and community-based outreach efforts and altered the timeline for in-person follow-ups by census workers.


Sources: California Department of Finance estimates and projections; US Census Bureau estimates; decennial censuses; American Community Survey.


Hans JohnsonHans Johnson
Center Director and Senior Fellow
Eric McGheeEric McGhee
Senior Fellow
Marisol Cuellar MejiaMarisol Cuellar Mejia
Research Fellow
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