California’s population grew at a rate of 0.7% in 2017. The overall trend since 2000 is a declining growth rate. California's population growth rate peaked in 1989 at 3.43%. From 2000 to 2017, the growth rate steadily decreased from 1.55% in 2000 to 0.73% in 2017. Of California’s ten largest counties, Los Angeles County had the smallest increase of 0.3% in 2017. Riverside County had the highest increase of 1.9% in 2017.
Steady population growth is essential for a long-term, stable real estate market. California’s rate of population growth varies from year to year, but it has always increased over time. Only three California counties (Plumas, Sierra and Alpine) saw their populations decrease in the first decade of the new millennium.
California's Population Growth in the New Millennium
While many temporary factors influence the rise and fall of California’s population and growth rate, including birth and death rates, migration, cultural trends, and environmental factors, the most critical influence is economics. When jobs are plentiful, and housing is available at reasonable prices, people move into California. A strong economy is an incentive for both interstate and international immigration. A weak California economy causes people to move out or stay away. A state with a lack of good jobs can lose people, as they leave for more job-friendly environments in other states.
The recession of the early 1990s, for example, corresponded with a dramatic decrease in the rate of California's population growth. However, the 2008 recession had no comparable decelerating effect on the rate of California’s population growth. This is likely because the Great Recession, unlike the 1990s recession, was accompanied by a tremendous drop in real estate prices. This drop returned prices to their historic trend of slow but dependable increases.
Immigration and California's Population Growth
Immigration, both authorized and unauthorized, is a critical driver of population growth to California. This includes migration to California from other states and other nations. The largest proportion of international immigrants to California come north from Mexico. According to the US Census Bureau, 38% of California’s population in 2013 was Hispanic, and this proportion has increased annually for the last twenty years. The vast majority of immigrants go to Los Angeles County. Although the state’s birth rate and statewide emigration are both critical factors that influence California's population, immigration averages 58% of the yearly increase in California's population growth for the last 25 years.
Intra- and Interstate Migration
In 2013, five million Californians moved from one residence to another (13% of the total state population). If these, 77% remained in the same county and 21% remained in California. Renters are far more likely to relocate than homeowners: the annual rate of relocation was around 20% for renters and 6% for owners. Men were very slightly more likely to relocate than women, singles were more likely to move than couples, and those with more education (a bachelor’s degree or higher) were more likely to relocate than those with less.