NewsCovering California


California reports first-ever yearly population decline

Posted: 1:29 PM, May 07, 2021
Updated: 2021-05-14 12:20:26-04
California Population Loss

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — First California lost a House seat. Now we're learning that the state's population is shrinking for the first time in history.

We're taking an in-depth look at just how much the state has changed, why people are leaving, and how these numbers impact us here in Kern County.

California's population went down by about 182,000 people last year according to the latest data from the state's Department of Finance. That information also shows that the majority of that drop happened in the last three months of 2020.


Allen Bolar, Professor of Political Science at Bakersfield College, talks about the population change

During the other months of that year, the state's growth and departure rates remained about even.

In the last three months of 2020, 267,000 people moved out of California. During the same time, 128,000 people moved in.

The California Public Policy Lab says the number of people moving out of the state has only gone up about 2 percent over the last five years. It adds that the pandemic may have played a role in the changes by forcing people to stay in the state after opportunities to move were postponed or it could have caused some people to leave for work.

So are Kern County residents moving out of the Golden State and if so at what rates?

Population Changes

The Department of Finance shows Kern County didn't follow that statewide trend with many cities reporting growth last year. Data shows McFarland had about a 4 percent increase in its population over the last year. Shafter also saw about a 4 percent change in 2020. Wasco and Bakersfield each saw about a 1 percent growth in population. Even unincorporated areas of kern grew during the last year.

Taft and Maricopa were the only areas in Kern County to report a decrease in population with about a 1 percent decrease each.

So if people in other regions are moving, where are they going?

Data shows that the Bay Area saw a 178 percent increase in people moving out of the area during the pandemic. Many of them moved to other parts of the state as remote work prevailed in 2020.

Let's break down where those people went.

Most Bay Area residents headed east and south amid the pandemic. The counties that saw the biggest influx of Bay Area residents were Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego.

So what about Kern County?

Data shows less than one percent of people from that region moved to kern county during the pandemic.

So what's driving Californians out?

The public Policy Institute of California says its a number of factors. Among the biggest driving forces are policies and state leadership. During the pandemic, many people took issue with Governor Gavin Newsom's decision-making.

The Public Policy Institute says about 4 in 10 people support recalling the governor.

At the time of polling, most of those people said the worst of the pandemic was behind us and that as leadership refused to lift restrictions the economy tanked. This factor may have pushed some residents out of California.

On top of this, many people say housing prices are a point of concern. About 90 percent of people polled say finding affordable housing is a problem. The Public Policy Institute says 1 in 3 respondents say they'd move out of the state to find better housing options.

Birth Rates Record Low

And around the nation birth rates are down. According to provisional data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the American birth rate dropped for the sixth year in a row in 2020, down by 4 percent from the previous year.

It also reached a record low of 55.8 births per 1,000 women ages 15-to-44.

23ABC reached out to Kern County Public Health for information on both our death and birth rates to see if we have seen any changes but the department was not able to get us those numbers at the time. They are however working on getting us those numbers soon.

So you may be asking why does all this even matter? How does a population decrease impact me personally?

Population Matters

23ABC took a look at that as well. Because of the state's population decrease, California lost a congressional seat in the House of Representatives. The loss of a House seat means a possible dip in federal funding for Medi-Cal, the health insurance program for low-income people, as well as less money for highways, schools, and a wide array of social service

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, there is a difference between those moving into the state and those moving out.

People who move to California are different from those who move out. In general, those who move here are more likely to be working age, to be employed, and to earn high wages—and are less likely to be in poverty—than those who move away. Those who move to California also tend to have higher education levels than those who move out—an especially important factor given the state’s strong need for college graduates. Notably, this gain in educated residents is concentrated among young college graduates (generally, adults in their 20s) looking for opportunities as they start their careers.

In addition, those moving into the state tend to have a higher income than those moving out.

According to the United States Census Bureau, by 2019 Kern County was expected to grow by 7.2%, while Bakersfield was expected to grow by 10.4%.

The 2020 census results are not currently available to the public to determine if the county and city reached those expectations.

According to the California Policy Lab, in the 4th quarter of 2020, Kern County saw 9,734 residents exit the county, while only 8,552 came into the county. A drop of 4%.

California Policy Lab: