The number of Southern Californians leaving the state leveled off last year, but the region will continue to experience slow population growth due to accelerated aging and immigration declines, according to data released Wednesday at the 34th Annual Demographic Workshop.
Sponsored by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, the workshop brought together the region’s leading demographers and population experts, as well as more than 400 attendees from the public and private sectors.
A highlight of the program was the release of SCAG’s assessment of the newly released American Community Survey (ACS) results from the U.S. Census Bureau. That analysis showed that the share of Southern California residents who left the state in 2022 stood at 1.9% – the same as the year before, though still higher than the 1.4% rate during pre-pandemic 2019.
Meanwhile, the region continues to age, with the share of the population over the age of 65 edging up to 15.2%, a full percentage point above where it was in 2019 and a full five percentage points above its level in 2006. This, along with declining birth rates and declining international migration, is resulting in slower population growth across the six-county region and the state as a whole.
Walter Schwarm, Chief Demographer for the California Department of Finance, noted that California will see population growth fall to an average rate of 0.27%, down from previous projections as high as 0.8%. The state now projects that California’s population will peak at 40.2 million in 2044, and decline after that.
Among other key findings of the ACS analysis:
- Labor force participation across the SCAG region increased in 2022, to 64.4%, even with a greater portion of the population reaching traditional retirement age.
- Fewer people are working from home, as more employees have returned to the office post-pandemic or shifted from fully remote work to a hybrid arrangement. Between 2021 and 2022, the region’s work-from-home rate fell from 19.3% to 15.7%.
- Real median household income fell across the region in 2022, as inflation outpaced income growth. The region’s real median household income, in constant 2023 dollars, fell from $90,686 in 2021 to $89,990 in 2022.
- Homeownership rates across the SCAG region decreased slightly from 53.5% in 2021 to 52.9% in 2022 and remained well below the national average (65.2%).
- Southern California homeowners and renters remain burdened by high housing costs: 32.8% of owner households and 55.6% of renters spend 30% or more of their household incomes on housing costs. These are significantly higher than the national rates: 22.6% and 48.2%, respectively.
Another major focus of the workshop was the generational shift that’s occurring throughout the region. By next year, all Baby Boomers will have turned 60, the oldest Millennials will be approaching their mid-40s and the majority of Gen Z will be working age.
“This shift is redefining politics, culture, technology and the economy, with profound implications for the future of the region and country,” said Kome Ajise, SCAG Executive Director.
Keynote speaker Jean M. Twenge, author and Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University, said younger generations are actually faring better economically than is often portrayed, and that the desire for traditional quality-of-life benefits remains strong. At the same time, there is a growing sense of pessimism with each passing generation, which has led to higher rates of depression and other challenges.
Among fundamental shifts she sees moving forward: Fertility rates remaining low, and, among Generation Z in particular, a greater emphasis on diversity.