California Drops in Population for the First Time in Recorded History


Following an unprecedented exodus of citizens last year, California saw its population decline for the first time in recorded history.

While the bust of the Gold Rush in the 19th Century couldn’t dissuade people from flocking to paradise on Earth, in 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic, the state was unable to attract enough people to replace those fleeing for the first time ever. Politico reported that California lost a net number of residents totaling more than 180,000 people from January of 2020 to January of this year, or 0.46 percent of its total population.

Numbers released by the state Department of Finance showed that the state’s high cost of living and taxes, along with its embrace of restrictions on liberties and commerce, arguably chased away more people than it would normally attract to replace those people.

That has never happened in California’s history, dating back to the 1900 Census.

The Public Policy Institute of California attributed the loss of citizens to deaths and declining birth rates.

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“Much has been made of the California exodus, and rightly so. This migration, over the decades, has the power to reshape the state. 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,” the PPIC said of the news.

PPIC cited the population decline as “the consequence of fewer births, more deaths, a slowing of international migration, and — capturing a great deal of attention — a large migration out of California to other states.”

The PPIC also argued that wealthy residents fleeing did not contribute to the decline, noting that many of those who are moving to California are themselves wealthy.

“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,” the institute argued.

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“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,” the PPIC stated.

Politico, meanwhile, linked the deaths which contributed to the population decline to the coronavirus pandemic.

“51,000 Californians died of the coronavirus in 2020 — pushing the average death rate 19 percent higher than in preceding years,” Politico noted.

The outlet, citing the Department of Finance, also blamed former President Donald Trump for halting foreign students and other immigrants from moving in to replace those who had left for other states last year.

“Declines in foreign immigration accounted for 100,000 less people living in California, according to the state. That includes 53,000 international students who remained home due to global restrictions,” Politico reported. “The biggest loss of California residents in 2020 was due to a continued decline in foreign immigration into the state, ‘a direct impact’ of the Trump administration’s suspension of some visas when the pandemic hit.”

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In any event, the state, under the leadership of Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, made history as it was unable to maintain the standards for growth set by the governor’s predecessors — each and every one of them.

The devastating news for the country’s most populous state comes on the heels of news that California would shed a congressional seat following 2020 Census numbers released last week.

California lost a seat while Florida gained one and Texas gained two. New York, the country’s second-largest Democratic-run state, also lost a House seat.

California’s population decline is evidence that big names such as Tesla CEO Elon Musk and others who made much-publicized moves away from the Golden State last year were not alone in seeking refuge from its tax burdens and cumbersome restrictions on individual liberty.

While some of the country’s wealthy might still view California as a viable place to live, the Golden State’s policies have overridden its luster for many Americans, as simply residing within its borders proved cost-prohibitive or otherwise taxing for so many people who last year called the state home.

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Johnathan Jones has worked as a reporter, an editor, and producer in radio, television and digital media.
Johnathan "Kipp" Jones has worked as an editor and producer in radio and television. He is a proud husband and father.