A new USC report has concluded that California will grow more slowly in the next few decades than it has in the past. The study indicates that California shouldn’t expect the growth rate to exceed 1% annually, at least until 2050, when the numbers could rise back to the levels seen in the 80s.
Whether or not we believe the far reaching conclusions of the study, there is no doubt that current trends signal a sharp decline in populations growth. The main reason for the drop is the recent decline in the influx of illegal immigrants from Latin America.
A bad economy, stricter laws, employment rules enforcement and a less porous border has meant that a great number of potential immigrants are either incapable of unwilling to face the long and perilous journey across the desert.
With the bursting of the growth bubble created by illegal immigration, California will need to get used to growth rates more in tune with the ones of other states.
“This is more manageable growth and that’s good news for California,” said Dowell Myers, co-author of the research and professor of demography and urban planning professor at USC. “We’re returning to a more normal rate of growth.”
This means more time to devote to city planning and highway expansion, more orderly city growth, less crowded schools and hospitals. It also means that the golden state will be able to count on a more mature immigrant population, one that has been residing in California for decades, is older, better educated and proficient in English. This will no doubt increase civic participation and social involvement.
On the other hand, an older population means less people paying taxes and more people collecting benefits. The USC researchers indicates that the number of Californians of retirement age compared with people of prime working age (25- to 64-year-olds) will rise to 36 seniors per 100 working-age adults in 2030. It was at 22 to 100 in 2010.
A worrisome sign is that the current generation of young adults is not as educated as the retiring baby boomers, most of whom benefited from generous grants, and low education costs in decades past. Those hoping less students will translate in less money spent on public education may be in for a rude awakening.
The budget surplus that could be produced by having to educate a smaller number of people may be offset by the skyrocketing costs to educate each pupil, which are only expected to increase in years to come.
Furthermore a less educated 2nd generation of immigrants could limit the group’s integration in the middle class and fail to stoke the flame of the all-powerful American Dream in the younger generation.
“It’s important for us as a state to make sure immigrants and their families are integrated into our society and are successful, so it’s really important to look to their education,” said Meyer. “The biggest challenge California faces long term is to ensure that enough of our residents go to college, and to make sure they graduate.”