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Proportion of California's transplant population reaches 100-year low

November 28, 2011 |  7:54 am

High home prices

The proportion of California's population that moved here from out of state compared with native-born residents reached a 100-year low of about 20% in 2010, according to U.S. census numbers.

The demographics of California today more closely resemble those of 1900 than of 1950: It is a mostly home-grown population whose future depends on the children of immigrants and their children, said William Frey, a demographer and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

"We used to say California, here we come," said Frey. "That now has flipped."

Experts point to various causes of the turnaround, most of them rooted in a flagging economy. But high housing prices — too high for many struggling Californians despite a burst housing bubble — still play a role.

Some analysts see a dark future in the loss of the demographic dynamism that has been the state's hallmark.

"A steady-state California is both a contradiction in terms and a recipe for decline," said historian and author Mike Davis, who teaches writing at UC Riverside.

Davis said warehousing and other commerce in inland California produces relatively few jobs, while employment in Los Angeles County is increasingly concentrated in small, poorly capitalized service businesses that could collapse in a recession.

"This is a totally different world from the days when the aerospace industry was the big engine," Davis said.


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Photo: High housing prices have played a role in California's population shift. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times