California Population Drops For First Time Following COVID-19 Pandemic, Ongoing Exodus

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Varun Hukeri General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
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California’s population fell by at least 182,000 people last year, marking the state’s first annual population decline ever recorded, state officials announced Friday afternoon.

Officials said the state’s population saw a 0.46% drop to around 39.5 million between January 2020 and January 2021, The Associated Press (AP) reported. Its four largest cities — Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco — lost a combined 88,000 people.

Officials attributed the decline to an increase in deaths because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the continued exodus of residents leaving the state. Other factors included a declining birth rate and a large reduction in international immigration caused by the pandemic.

California also lost a congressional seat for the first time after the Census Bureau released its initial state population numbers for the 2020 Census in late April. The population increased by about 2.3 million people since the 2010 Census, but growth had been nearly flat since 2017.

Officials noted that more people left California for other states than moved to the state, continuing an ongoing trend that has sparked criticism of the state’s high taxes and liberal politics, according to the AP. A decline in immigration and births last year also failed to offset the number of people who left the state, as it has typically done in recent years. (RELATED: Elon Musk Joins Mass California Exodus, Moves To Texas)

The pandemic had a particularly large impact on population numbers as well. More than 61,000 people have died of COVID-19 in California, according to state data. Officials said the pandemic killed 51,000 people last year.

The state’s death rate was 19% higher than the average rate for the past three years, officials said. Almost all of the state’s 58 counties had death rates above the three-year average, including 12 counties with death rates 20% or more above the average. Los Angeles County, where almost 24,000 people died of COVID-19, had a death rate 27% above the average.

“If it were not for the pandemic last year, we might be having a very different conversation today,” said California’s top demographer Walter Schwarm.