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Report: California’s foreign-born population has peaked

March 31, 2010 | 10:29 am

http://nontroppo.org/blog/images/larally.jpgAfter decades on the rise, California's foreign-born population has peaked and in some large areas -- including Los Angeles County -- has even slightly declined, with that trend expected to continue, according to a new report.

This peaking of the foreign-born population has occurred earlier than previously forecast because of sharp declines in new immigrant arrivals, largely attributed to stepped-up border enforcement and the downturn in the economy, according to the report by USC demographer Dowell Myers. In the report's figures, California has a population of roughly 34 million.

"In the last decade, homegrown residents have surpassed migrants and immigrants to become a majority of the California population for the first time since before the Gold Rush," Myers said in his report.

From 2000 to 2008, the foreign-born population in Los Angeles County declined from 36.2% of the total population in 2000 to 35.2% in 2008; neighboring Orange County leveled off during the same time period from 29.9% to 30%, according to the report. Overall, the state's foreign-born population went from 26.2% to 26.8% during this period.

In addition, the foreign-born population has not risen substantially since 2000 in any Southern California county except Riverside, which went from 19% at the beginning of this decade to 22.3% in 2008, according to the report.

Meanwhile, the California-born population in Los Angeles County increased from 45.2% of the total population to 48.8% during this same time period, while Orange County jumped from 46.5% to 50.1%. This mirrored a statewide trend, with the homegrown population increasing from 50.2% to 53.3%.

"The simplest way of describing the dramatic transition," Myers said in his report, "is that none of the Southern California counties had a homegrown majority in 1980."

In 1990, only San Bernardino County had a homegrown majority. By 2000, Riverside and Ventura counties had joined this category, followed by Orange County in 2008, according to the report. By 2010, it is projected that all counties – including Los Angeles and San Diego – will have acquired a homegrown majority.

What economic and political changes this demographic shift will have on a state that has been focused on migration-driven growth remains an open question, Myers concludes. But one thing is certain, Myers says, the state has transitioned into a new era that will increasingly be shaped by native Californians.

-- Teresa Watanabe

Photo: Massive immigration rights rally in downtown Los Angeles in 2006. Los Angeles Times

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