California dream isn’t so golden any more
June 30, 2011
The last decade between 2000 and 2010 proved to be the biggest population slump of any period since the beginning of California’s statehood in 1850, according to the most recent census data. [CNN U.S.]
The Golden State, the most populous in the U.S. with its 37.3 million people, isn’t so golden any more. Suburban sprawl, congestion, high taxes and expensive homes have sent people scurrying to other states in search of more affordable living.
In the last 10 years, according to the Public Policy Institute of California, 1.5 million more people left California for other states than came here to settle from other parts of the U.S.
New births and international immigration make up the difference but even immigration has slowed from its sky-high rates in the 1990s, according to demographers.
The state actually grew its population by 10 percent in the 2000s, which puts it on a par with the national rate of growth. San Luis Obispo County, with a population of 269,637, showed an increase of 9.3 percent, according to U.S. census data. In 2000, SLO County population was 246,681.
California’s entire state history is one of a series of population explosions beginning with the Gold Rush of the mid-1800s, continuing with Hollywood’s emergence in the 1920s and most recently with the aerospace boom after World War II.
Before the 1990s, the state never saw a growth rate below 20 percent.
The state, as it gets more crowded and expensive, is losing its golden appeal. Not so long ago, Orange County with its orchards and open farmland drew millions in search of the suburban dream. Now, nearly all the farmland has been developed and the sprawling orchards are long gone.
The slowdown may be a simple matter of the state approaching its carrying capacity, the point where land and water resources can’t support any more people.
“Biology controls a lot of things,” said David Carle, author of several books about the state’s natural resources. “There are resource limits and natural limits. We’ve fought against that in California for a long time. We’ve pushed for 150 years or so to make this place boom in terms of population, and it seems like we’re coming up against an extreme.”
Nonetheless, PPIC projects that by 2020 California’s population will reach 42 million to 48 million people. In 1900, it was home to less than 2 million.