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California Lost Population For First Time In History In 2020

David Monniaux
Wikimedia Commons

California lost population for the first time in its history in 2020, according to figures released by the state Friday.

California's population now stands at 39,466,855, according to the state Department of Finance, a drop of 182,083 from last year.

The announcement comes on the heels of new Census figures that showed since 2010 California grew by its lowest rate in any decade, so much so that California will lose two congressional seats.

State officials attributed the loss to three main factors: a continued trend of fewer birth compared to deaths, limits on international migration, and COVID-19, which they estimate increased the state's expected deaths in 2020 by more than 51,000.

"The addition of 2020’s COVID-19-related deaths, combined with immigration restrictions in the past year, tipped population change to an annual loss," officials wrote in a press release.

Since 2010, 1.3 million more people have left California for other states than moved in. A study from the Public Policy Institute of California found those newcomers are more likely to have higher income and education levels than those who move away.

During the 2010s, about 6.1 million people moved from California to other states, while only 4.9 million people moved to California from other parts of the country.

Still, the trend in losing residents to other states isn't new. California hasn't attracted more movers from out of state since 2000, and a California Policy Lab study found that most residents choose to move within the state.

The trend also isn't even throughout the states. Some regions — especially the Central Valley — are still seeing population increase even as the state is losing people overall.

Of the four counties that grew by at least 1%, three of them — San Joaquin, Placer and Yuba — are in the Central Valley. Only San Benito County also grew by that much. Sacramento County and city both grew at around 0.5%, while Yolo County dropped by 1.7%.

Among cities, Elk Grove is now the 26th largest in the state, passing Oceanside, while Roseville passed Pasadena and Torrance to become the 39th largest city.

Many larger cities and counties lost population. San Francisco lost nearly 15,000 residents, while Los Angeles lost population for the third consecutive year.

One hopeful sign in the data was the repopulation of Paradise in Butte County, which was devastated by the Camp Fire in 2018. The new figures show Paradise grew by 31% to 6,046 residents, with a corresponding jump in the number of new housing units available as the town continues to rebuild.

State officials are hopeful that the potential of increased immigration under the Biden administration and fewer COVID-19 deaths will allow California to continue population growth in 2021.