California’s Population Shrunk in 2021, Officials and Citizens Disagree About the Cause

By Naveen Athrappully
Naveen Athrappully
Naveen Athrappully
Naveen Athrappully is a news reporter covering business and world events at The Epoch Times.
May 3, 2022 Updated: May 4, 2022

The population of California declined for the second straight year in 2021, with officials blaming lower birth rates, the pandemic, and other reasons for the drop, while outgoing citizens place the blame on violent crime numbers, property prices, and the state’s education system.

There were 117,552 fewer residents in California as of Jan. 1, 2022, when compared to the previous year, according to a May 2 press release by the state’s Department of Finance.

The total population of the state as of Jan. 1 was 39,185,605, which is 0.3 percent lower than in January 2021.

“As Baby Boomers age and fertility declines among younger cohorts, the continuing slowdown in natural increase—births minus deaths—underlies the plateauing of the state’s population growth. The addition of COVID-19-related deaths, federal policies restricting immigration, and an increase in domestic out-migration further affected population totals,” the release states.

“Overall growth was also affected by continuing federal delays in processing foreign migration: while last year saw positive immigration (43,300), the level was below the average annual rate of 140,000 before the pandemic.”

A majority of counties saw population decline except in the interior counties of Inland Empire and Central Valley, which saw an increase in population. Only three counties in the state registered more than or equal to 1 percent population growth: Yolo at 1.8 percent, San Benito at 1.1 percent, and Modoc at 1 percent.

Out of the total 58 counties in the state, 34 saw their populations decrease. Plumas lost 3.2 percent of its population, followed by Lassen at 2.8 percent, Butte at 2.4 percent, Del Norte at 1.4 percent, and Napa at 1 percent. While 361 cities suffered a population loss, 118 cities experienced an increase in population.

Los Angeles remained the largest city in California with a population of 3.82 million people, followed by San Diego with 1.37 million, and San Jose with 976,482 million citizens.

Epoch Times Photo
The Peterson family stands on their Garden Grove property currently in escrow as they transition to their new home in Laughlin, Nevada on Feb. 07, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

California’s population decreased for the first time in 2020. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Walter Schwarm, chief demographer with the state’s Department of Finance, dismissed the idea that California is seeing an exodus.

“To a certain extent, we have two or three things happening here—the pandemic is there in the sense that natural increase, it really slowed down over these two years. Some of that is a lack of births because of delayed childbearing decisions,” Schwarm said. “Things are getting a little better, fertility is coming back after the pandemic.”

Terry Gilliam, 62, who started the “Leaving California” Facebook page in 2018, moved to Florida in 2021 due to issues like high housing costs, traffic, exorbitant taxes, crime rates, politics, and homelessness.

California has the highest number of homeless people in the country, with current estimates at 161,548 people. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, property crime and violent crime rates rose in the state in 2021, with homicides rising in places like San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Oakland.

California native Kathy Kean, 62, moved to Texas in 2021 due to the rising crime rate. “It’s not what we remembered our area to be,” Kean told The Epoch Times. “Some of the crime, like the gangs, were getting worse in our area from L.A. and Riverside coming in.”

Another Californian woman, identified as Mrs. Lopez, bought a property in a red state in 2019 so that she and her husband at least have a “safe and secure home” in case things fall apart in California. She is drawn to Republican states that protect the constitutional rights of their citizens, have lower taxes, and respect life.

A conservative Christian, Lopez said she has lost faith in the state’s education system, disagreeing with the radical sex education and ideologies like critical race theory that are being promoted by the state administration.

In a report published in July 2021, California’s Legislative Analyst Office said that the state’s outmigration is “increasingly concentrated” among the more affluent, older people. An analysis of population data showed a “persistent, long-term” net outmigration. “A key driver of migration between California and other states is living costs, particularly the cost of housing.”

In 2021, the median cost of a home in California was over $800,000, which was an increase of 34.2 percent from the previous year. This is double the U.S. national average of about $400,000.

Jamie Joseph and Linda Jiang contributed to this report.

Naveen Athrappully is a news reporter covering business and world events at The Epoch Times.