California Population Rises a Modest 0.6%


California was a big loser of residents to other states between July 1994 and July 1995, but immigration and births kept the state population growing modestly, the Census Bureau reported Friday.

California had 31,589,000 residents on July 1, an increase of 181,000 for the year, a gain of just 0.6% compared with the national growth rate of 0.9%.

In the 12-month period, 383,000 people moved to other states, fewer than in the peak period in 1993-94 but still substantial.


In contrast, California’s population explosion during the 1980s was fueled by a combination of people relocating from other states, a high birthrate and rising immigration from other countries. Then, the state grew by 25% while the nation’s population expanded only 10%.

The reversal in the 1990s has been drastic: In every year of this decade, there was a net loss of people to other states, a total of 1,531,000 Californians migrating since 1990.

The drain of residents “may have turned the corner but it’s hard to say,” said Edwin Byerly, a demographer with the Census Bureau. It is too soon to say whether the easing of the out-migration last year is the harbinger of a permanent trend, he said.

“It strikes me that California is still suffering from the fact that we don’t spend money on defense projects like we used to,” said Peter Francese, president of American Demographics magazine, which studies population and marketing trends. “It was the federal largess that brought people to California. When there is less work, people vote with their feet, as they have in New York for decades.”


When Californians leave, they typically go to neighboring states in the Pacific or Rocky Mountain regions, he noted. “That suggests to me that, should things turn around in California, they will come back,” Francese said.

The pace of immigration, although brisk, may be slowing. Nationally, it hit 835,000 in 1992-93, then dropped to 754,000, and then again to 702,000 in the year ending last July 1. The pattern was similar for California, with a high figure this decade of 296,000 in 1992-93, then a drop to 260,000, and 234,000.


California is the home of 7.7 million foreign-born persons, more than a third of all immigrants to the United States. Census Bureau experts expect this pattern to continue.

California has a strikingly more diverse population than the nation as a whole. About 9% of the U.S. population is foreign-born, compared with about 24% in California.

In the annual Census report issued Friday, California kept its ranking as the most populous state. Births exceeded deaths in the state by approximately 343,000.

Texas was second in population, with 18,724,000, having gained 311,000 persons during the one-year period.

New York was third with 18,136,000, but suffered a loss of 17,000. The only areas to lose population were New York, Rhode Island, down 5,000, and the District of Columbia, which lost 13,000. The U.S. population was 262.8 million, a gain of 2.4 million.