Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

California in the future: Older, less crowded, more second-generation

Same lovely scenery as ever, with a changing population
Same lovely scenery as ever, with a changing population
Photo by sansceriph/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A new California population projection provides a glimpse into what California will look like in the future, a state that will be less crowded than once predicted, whose population will be older, and whose younger faces will be increasingly second-generation.

The new projection from the University of Southern California's Price School of Public Policy predicts a far slower growth rate than what was projected five years ago, when the state was expected to have 50 million residents by 2032. According to the USC study, that's not expected to happen now until near the middle of the century, in 2046.

A large part of this slowdown comes from immigration slowing to a near trickle. While the percentage of foreign-born California residents rose dramatically during the 1980s and 1990s, it's now expected to remain steady at around 27 percent of the overall population through 2030.

Seniors will form a bigger share of the state's population as Baby Boomers age, while the working-age population between 25 and 64 is expected to slow.

The bulk of what growth is seen in the working-age population - 98 percent of it, in fact - is expected to come from the U.S.-born children of immigrants. It's a stark contrast to earlier years as the immigrant population was on the rise, when first-generation immigrants accounted for 80 percent of the growth in this age group.

As for those immigrants who are already here, more will be staying long-term. California's share of foreign-born residents who have lived in the U.S. for 20 years or longer is expected to rise, making up roughly two-thirds of the immigrant population by 2030. At the same time, the number of newer arrivals is expected to keep dropping as the population becomes increasingly native-born.

The implications are big ones. A smaller population means less demand on infrastructure, good news in a financially strapped state. At the same time, there are other things to contend with that the report doesn't get into: a shrinking foreign-born labor pool, more aging people to care for, fewer Californians overall of working age. And some interesting cultural shifts, already occurring as California becomes home to a growing number of families (albeit smaller ones, as the report predicts people having fewer children) made up of the descendants of immigrants.

The complete USC population projection can be downloaded here.