USC Study Reveals First Decline of California's Foreign-Born Population in Half a Century
March 31, 2010
USC demographics professor Dowell Myers is releasing a study that outlines a historic drop in the state of California's immigrant population: For the first time in half a century the percentage of foreign-born residents in the state is actually declining.
The estimates, which are being released as the official U.S. Census day of April 1 draws near, is intended to supplement upcoming census reports and draw attention to the importance of demographic data collection and analysis.
Previous forecasts predicted the number of foreign-born residents in California - which was 26.2 percent in 2000 – would rise to as high as 30 percent of the population by 2020. Foreign-born refers to people who are born outside of the United States.
Instead, Myers estimates the California foreign-born population share rose only 1.2 percentage points from its 2000 peak and started to slip downward in 2008. Projections by Myers and his co-author, John Pitkin, a senior researcher at the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development, indicate the foreign-born population in California could fall close to its 2000 level in 2010.
(For graphs that show the birth profiles of California residents, including breakdowns in Southern California counties, please refer to the report: "The New Place of Birth Profile of Los Angeles and California Residents in 2010")
Recent surveys show that the number of new immigrant arrivals in California has declined much more sharply than in the nation as a whole, and in Los Angeles County the annual arrivals have fallen even more. The recent immigrant inflow has now fallen to a level 26 percent lower than 30 years ago, at the beginning of the great boom in immigration.
Meanwhile, the number of California-born residents is rising. Dubbed by Myers as the "homegrown," they now are estimated – for the first time in more than a century - to constitute a majority in the state of California and in each of the counties in Southern California.
"The peak and decline of the foreign born population has occurred earlier than expected, largely due to the sharp declines in new immigrant arrivals that are accompanying the economic downturn," said Myers, a professor with the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development. "Meanwhile, the transition to a homegrown majority occurred as early as 2000 in the state as a whole, but was slower to come to Southern California."
Myers and his team analyzed data from previous census reports, the American Community Survey and the Current Population Survey. They also used their proprietary California Demographic Futures model to provide a detailed population profile for January 2010.
Myers also broke down the data according to counties in Southern California. Under conservative extension of recent trends, for example, the foreign born share in Los Angeles County was estimated to decline by 1.2 percentage points from 2000 to 2010.
The findings provide a glimpse of current and upcoming demographic trends that are intended to complement the Census 2010 data. The current census asks for age, sex, race and homeowner status, but it doesn't ask whether a person is born in California or outside of California.
The data compiled by Myers also highlights the future impact of what is called California's "homegrown" majority. These are people who are born in California, and they include the children of both immigrants and longtime Californians.
"In contrast to the decline of the foreign-born California residents, California's 'homegrown' residents have increased in numbers to where they constitute a majority in the state," said Myers.
In Southern California, not a single county had a homegrown majority in 1980 but by 2000 the counties of San Bernardino, Riverside and Ventura all had a majority of residents born in California, according to Myers' findings. In 2010, Myers estimates that all of the counties will have a majority of "homegrown" residents.
This "homegrown" group is most likely to be under the age of 30, which indicates a bottom-up push that will likely influence and shape public policy in the future, according to Myers. "Concentrated heavily among our younger people, these are the future workers, tax payers, and home buyers we all will depend upon," he said.
Much of Myers' work involves identifying key demographic trends that are likely to impact California's future economic stability, including the need for the state to better integrate these "homegrown" residents into education and job opportunities.
For a copy of the report, please go here: http://www.usc.edu/schools/sppd/research/popdynamics/futures
Dowell Myers, a professor with the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development, is a specialist in urban growth and development with expertise as a planner and urban demographer. He can be reached at (213) 821-1466 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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