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The Golden State's population is growing — mostly in SoCal




File: A new gated community housing project overlooks farms that are being rapidly converted into a vast suburb during a construction boom in San Bernardino County during World Population Day on July 11, 2007 near Rancho Cucamonga.
File: A new gated community housing project overlooks farms that are being rapidly converted into a vast suburb during a construction boom in San Bernardino County during World Population Day on July 11, 2007 near Rancho Cucamonga.
David McNew/Getty Images

California's population is growing. There are 39.6 million people living in the state, according to new data from the state's Department of Finance. That's 301,000 more people than the year prior, and most of the growth is happening right here in Southern California.

Take Two's A Martinez spoke with California Department of Finance researcher Ethan Sharygin to find out more about what's behind the population change.

Foreign migration is driving the increase

It's been an important source of growth for our population for at least ten years. It hasn't been trailing off as much as you might think because the state continues to attract a lot of skilled migration from countries, increasingly from Asia, that are not as affected by some of the immigration debate as Mexico.

So Cal is outpacing Northern California

So Cal is still an attractive area. The economy is doing well. People are trying to locate near job centers. The largest percentage growth is in the central valley and some of the peripheral areas, but the largest absolute numbers of increase are all in L.A. and neighboring counties. We see Riverside and San Bernardino growing very quickly. Riverside is notable because it was one county that had positive net migration from other states.

Growth rate is positive but slowing

We're seeing a slowing of the growth rate. We're remaining positive, and we expect it to continue to grow. All western states are growing by half a percent to two percent. A big news item was Idaho leading the growth rate by two percent in the western region. It was the fastest growth rate, but parts of California are reaching that rate too.

California population projections for the future

We expect the growth rate to continue declining but remaining positive because we still have strong foreign migration. Over half of our in-migrants have a college degree or higher whereas 55 percent of out-migrants have a high school degree or less. We see a lot of population exchange. On the net, we think we'll continue to have slow growth.

Affordable housing's role in population changes

Housing is a big concern of ours. It's a big risk. That's why we see more growth in counties neighboring L.A. rather than L.A. itself.

Where people go when they leave California

A lot of them are going nearby. The main states we send people to are Arizona and Nevada. Also Texas.  We tend to attract people from those states, too. It's a process of exchange.