California Sees Nation-Leading Population Declines In Los Angeles, San Francisco

By Madison Hierneisen (The Center Square)

Data released by the U.S. Census Bureau this week shows that California cities and counties saw the most drastic population decreases in the COVID-19 pandemic.

San Francisco County saw America’s second-highest population decline at -6.7% – only outpaced by New York County with a 6.9% drop. According to data, San Mateo County was the closest county with the highest percentage drop at -3.5%.

Los Angeles County suffered the largest population decline in terms of numbers in 2021, with nearly 160,000 people losing their homes. However, the county wasn’t among the top 10 in percentage loss.

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Los Angeles County is still the largest county in America, with more than 9 million people.

Data are part of an Annual estimate from U.S. Census BureauThe data showed that deaths outnumbered births in many U.S. states in 2021. According to the data, 73% of counties are experiencing a “natural decrease” – up from 55.5% in 2020, according to the data. Experts said that fewer births, an aging population and increased mortality, which was “intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic,” contributed to this rise.

While about 65% of the nation’s counties saw positive domestic migration between 2020 and 2021, several counties in California and the nation’s largest cities saw sharp declines.

The report noted that some declines in California’s counties are attributable to international migration losses during the pandemic, with California being home to 41.4% of the counties that saw these losses. Others believe the population declines in California were caused by the increased use of remote work, and an urge to flee the coronavirus-infected centers.

When the pandemic hit, thousands either stayed in place or sought out “safe harbors” to get away from disease centers, Dowell Myers, an expert in urban planning and demography at the University of Southern California, told The Center Square. People fled New York to Long Island or Western Connecticut in order to avoid the disease.

While those “safe harbors” may not be as clear in California, Myers noted that residents did fan out within the state searching for more space – particularly as remote work became more common. He said he believed “flight from the coronavirus” contributed to population declines seen in San Francisco.

“Suddenly, people had to have their offices at home, and if you’re living in a small apartment, it’s not very convenient to do that,” Myers said. “Especially if two people are on a Zoom call at the same time – does not work well. So people were moving out, looking for more space and looking for more safety.”

According to the Census Bureau, Riverside County was the county that received the most domestic migrants in the country. Riverside-San Bernardino–Ontario was also fifth in the Top 10 Metro Areas for Numeric Growth between Summer 2020 and 2021.

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Myers stated that experts will be closely watching how people are returning to the metropolitan areas like San Francisco as the pandemic declines. At this point, he said many aren’t sure office reopenings will impact that return and noted that rising home prices during the pandemic might be a “deterrent” that could discourage people from returning to California’s metropolitan areas.

Myers noted, too that an underestimate of Latinos could have had an impact on estimated Los Angeles population loss. 

The U.S. Census’ annual population estimates use its decennial count as a baseline and rely on local statistics such as birth and death records to estimate population trends year-over-year.

This article was Syndicated by permission of The Center Square.