The population decline comes when Governor Gavin Newsom recalls his response to COVID and high taxes.
California’s population fell by more than 182,000 people in 2020, making it the first year-on-year loss ever recorded for the the most populous state in the nation.
State officials announced Friday that California’s population fell 0.46 percent to just under 39.5 million people from January 2020 to January 2021.
The news comes a week after the U.S. Census Bureau announced low population growth in California, prompting the state to losing a seat in Congress for the first time because it grew more slowly than other states over the past decade.
But the census numbers reflect the state’s population in April 2020. The new issues released Friday reflect the state’s population as of January 2021.
California became a state in 1850 as a result of the gold rush that motivated people to seek fortune westward. The population skyrocketed after World War II with the help of a robust aerospace and defense industry. It grew back in the 1980s and 1990s as technology companies put Silicon Valley on the map.
But growth slowed after the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, when the federal government cut spending on defense and again in the years leading up to the Great Recession in the late 2000s.
State officials say California has seen more people leave than other states for much of the past three decades. However, this had been offset by internationals immigration and births for California to continue to grow.
That changed in 2020. State officials say declining birth rates, plus reduced international immigration and increased coronavirus deaths, led to the state’s first population loss year after year.
California had a negative international migration in 2020, which according to state officials was a direct effect of the Trump administration’s decision to stop issuing new visas for much of this year. Coronavirus restrictions worldwide also resulted in a 29% decrease in international students arriving in California, or approximately 53,000 people.
In addition, about 51,000 people died last year from coronavirus in California. This represents an increase of 19% above the state average mortality rate in the last three years. In all, 51 of the 58 counties in the state recorded mortality rates above the three-year average, including 12 that increased by 20% or more.
In a press release, the California Department of Finance said it expects the state to return to “slightly positive annual growth” by the 202 calendar year. These numbers will be released next May.
The state’s population has become a political issue this year in light of the effort to do so we remember Governor Gavin Newsom, with Republicans blaming high taxes and the governor’s policies on people fleeing the state.
From 2010 to 2020, approximately 6.1 million people left California for other states compared to about 4.9 million people who moved to California from other states, according to an analysis by census data by the California Institute of Public Policy.
The Department of Finance’s population estimate comes from a variety of sources, including birth and death counts, the number of new driver’s licenses and changes of address, school enrollment, and federal tax returns.