Paseo Nuevo shopping center | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

California’s population grew by only 0.47 percent last year, the slowest growth rate in state history, according to a new report published by the state’s Department of Finance. California added just 186,807 residents, bringing the total population to 39,927,315 people. Santa Barbara County also grew only slightly, with 1,846 new residents recorded for a total population of 454,593.

State demographers attributed the slowdown to a sharp decline in births, lower student enrollment, and an increase in deaths as baby boomers age. They also cited a lack of affordable housing, which is making it harder for younger residents to lay down roots and start families.

Another reason for the dropping birth rate, researchers said, is the decline in immigrants from Mexico paired with an increase in Asian immigrants. A higher education rate among Asian females translates into later marriage, later childbirth, and fewer children, they explained.

The cities with the largest numeric population growth were Chico, Sacramento, San Diego, Irvine, and Santa Clarita, in that order. More than 23,700 housing units were demolished in 2018, most of them by wildfire. The counties with the most housing loss from fires were Butte (14,600), Shasta (900), Ventura (700), and Lake (300).

The state also recently published population projections for the next 40 years. The figures show Santa Barbara County’s population trending far older by 2060, with residents over 65 making up a larger and larger percentage of the overall populace. The pattern is repeated across California and likely setting the stage for major impacts to Medi-Cal and pension costs.

The projection data is also broken down by race and ethnicity. Currently, Santa Barbara County is 44.3 percent non-Hispanic white and 45.6 percent Hispanic or Latino of any race. By 2060, it is expected to be 32.7 percent non-Hispanic white and 55.7 percent Hispanic or Latino of any race. 


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