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Independent, objective, nonpartisan research
Fact Sheet · January 2022

California’s Population

Hans Johnson, Eric McGhee, and Marisol Cuellar Mejia

One in eight US residents lives in California.

  • With over 39 million people (according to July 2021 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 (22 million).
  • California’s population is projected to reach 45 million people by 2050.

California’s population growth has slowed dramatically in recent decades.

  • In 1900, California was home to fewer than 2 million people; by 1950 the population had reached 10 million. California’s population more than tripled in the last half of the 20th century (reaching 37 million by 2000), and its growth rate was much higher than that of the rest of the United States.
  • Since 2000, California has experienced its slowest rates of growth ever recorded.
  • From 2010 to 2020, California’s population grew by 5.8% (or 2.4 million), according to decennial census counts. This was slower than the rate of growth in the rest of the nation (6.8%), leading to the loss of a seat in the US House of Representatives for the first time in California’s history.

California’s population growth has slowed

figure - California’s population growth has slowed

SOURCE: California Department of Finance estimates for July 1 of each year.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, California’s population has declined.

  • From January 1, 2020, to July 1, 2021, California’s population declined by almost 300,000, according to Department of Finance estimates. An increase in deaths, sharp declines in international migration, and a rise in residents moving to other states account for the losses.
  • Most of the increase in deaths was due to the pandemic, according to the CDC. Moreover, birth rates have been declining for decades and reached record lows in the last two years. These trends in births and deaths mirror those in the rest of the nation.
  • International migration is at its lowest level in at least 40 years, and the number of residents moving to other states is at its highest level since the mid-1990s.

California’s population is diverse.

  • No race or ethnic group constitutes a majority of California’s population: 39% of state residents are Latino, 35% are white, 15% are Asian American or Pacific Islander, 5% are Black, 4% are multiracial, and fewer than 1% are Native American or Alaska Natives, according to the 2020 Census.
  • 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: Census Bureau decennial counts.

Over 10 million Californians are immigrants.

  • According to the 2019 American Community Survey, 27% of Californians are foreign born—this share is larger than that of any other state (New Jersey is second with 23%) and more than double the share in the rest of the nation (12%).
  • Over half (54%) of foreign-born Californians are US citizens, the largest share in over 40 years.

California is aging, but it is young compared to the rest of the country.

  • California’s population is aging along with the baby boom generation; by 2030, about one in five Californians will be 65 or older.
  • Yet California has the eighth-youngest population in the nation (Utah has the youngest). The median age in California is 37.3, compared to 38.7 for the entire country, according to the 2020 Census.

Los Angeles County and rural areas have lost population and political representation.

  • California’s Citizens Redistricting Commission has drawn new political districts based on the 2020 Census. Since the districts must be close to equal in population, shifts in representation have generally followed shifts in population.
  • Both Los Angeles County and the most rural parts of the state have lagged in population growth, so they now have less representation. Areas adjacent to LA, including parts of Orange County to the south and the Inland Empire to the east, have seen the greatest gains. The Bay Area and Sacramento have also had healthy population growth and gained representation.
Sources

Topics

2020 Census COVID-19 Immigrants in California Political Landscape Population