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Helping the Golden State Stay Golden

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The University of Southern California (USC) has released a thought-provoking analysis of California’s population trends (!/article/33871/usc-projection-of-california-population-shows-massive-slowdown/). One of the study’s key findings is that the state is experiencing a “massive slowdown” in its population growth. In fact, the report’s authors contend that the state is not likely to reach 50 million residents until 2046. However, one of the more interesting findings of this analysis is the central role that the children of immigrants will play in offsetting the problems that underlie the state’s aging work population.

On the surface, many local governments in California are breathing a sigh of relief, as the deceleration in the state’s population growth will lift financial pressure off of infrastructure needs. This is welcome news for a state that is as cash-strapped as California. The state has been forced to make painful cuts to a variety of services, hitting education especially hard from kindergartens to colleges.

However, dig a little deeper into the report’s revelations and one finds some unsettling trends. The study’s investigators attribute a significant part of California’s declining rate of population growth to immigration rates that have hit a plateau. In fact, they estimate that through 2030, the total percentage of state residents who are foreign born will remain at 27 percent. This actually represents a distinct departure from the soaring rise in immigration throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

More startling, however, is the estimated growth of California’s seniors. Over the next 20 years, USC’s researchers estimate that the number of residents who are 65 and older will quadruple as the baby boomer generation ages. What concerns state planners is who will fill the slowing growth of the primary working-age population between the ages of 25-64.

And just who will replace the state’s retiring baby boomers? Will it be their children? Or the children of baby boomers from other states?


According to USC’s analysis, 98 percent of the growth in the working-age population will be attributed to native-born children of immigrants. For all practical purposes, second-generation immigrants will replace working baby boomers in less than a generation.

The implications of this study are staggering. As of 2011, California ranked as the eighth largest economy in the world. In 20 years, were it not for the children of immigrants, the state could hardly harbor hopes of remaining one of the world’s top ten largest economies. It is yet another strong reminder of how invaluable immigrants are to the lifeblood of our country. And any assertions to the contrary are simply “California Dreamin’.”

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