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On California's slow-growing population: ‘Demography is destiny’

Woman and child at California Citrus State Historic Park.
Woman and child at California Citrus State Historic Park.
Ian D. Keating/Flickr Creative Commons

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According to the latest numbers from the California Department of Finance and the Census Bureau, California has roughly 39 million people residing here. That's about a 2 million more people than in 2010. 

Two million sounds like a lot but in the grand scheme of things, it's pretty low. Demographers who track the rate of growth argue that a slow-growing population can have a big effect on the state in the near future.

For more on why we are gaining less people and what that could mean for California, Take Two's Alex Cohen spoke with Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee.


Walters: Part of it is the aging cohort. If you don't have a high number of babies or a high number of young immigrants coming in, the age of your population overall tends to rise. And we are seeing a graying tendency in California.

It affects everything. It affects demand for public services. For example, the enrollment in California's public schools has been basically frozen now for around a decade or more at around 6 million kids. And some school districts are losing children and that creates a good deal of financial angst in those districts because they get tax money based largely on their enrollment. If they're enrollment starts going down, they have to start thinking about closing schools and that's happened in a number of districts. 

The demand for public services levels off. Traffic levels off. But you also have less of a demand for private services and goods so the whole retail economy feels the impact with not having as many people out there buying. It takes some of the heat off the housing crisis. Demography, it's been said, is destiny. And one of the big demographic factors in California now and into the foreseeable future, is we're going to see relatively low and perhaps even declining population growth in the state.

One of the off beat impacts of that is, if we don't grow stronger than the rest of the country, we don't get any more congressional seats. We don't get any more electoral votes. And we've seen huge increases in California's congressional seats and electoral votes in years past. But then after the last Census, we got nothing. And that indicates that that has plateaued out.  

To listen to the full interview, click on the blue media player above.