- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 5, 2003


For the first time in California’s history, more people left the state during the latter half of the 1990s than moved in from other states — though immigrants kept its population rising, the Census Bureau says.

Four reports being released today offered the most comprehensive look so far at U.S. migration in 2000.

Only New York, which lost 874,000 more residents to other states than it took in, had a bigger net decline than California, which lost 755,000. Illinois, New Jersey and Pennsylvania also lost more than they gained.

The figures count only gains and losses between states. California had a big gain when foreign immigrants were counted.

The longtime retirement destination of Florida had the biggest net increase of movers, with 607,000 more people coming in than leaving. Warm-weather states with fast-growing economies in the late 1990s rounded out the top five: Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona and Nevada.

William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution in Washington, said the California exodus could be a sign that residents were fed up with high housing prices and sprawl.

Analysts also noted that although the San Francisco Bay area’s economy boomed during the late 1990s, Southern California’s economy slumped.

Nevada was the place of choice for the largest number of exiting Californians: 199,000 settled there.

“People are leaving urbanism and wanting to move where there is more space or more affordable housing,” Mr. Frey said.

Overall, California drew about 1.4 million residents from other states between 1995 and 2000 but lost 2.2 million of its residents.

Spurred by immigration, however, California’s population still rose 14 percent, or 4.1 million people, between 1990 and 2000 to nearly 33.9 million. Its foreign-born population rose by more than one-third to almost 8.9 million.

The state lost more residents than it gained for the first time since the government started keeping track of domestic migration statistics in 1940, Census Bureau analyst Jason Schachter said.

The trend may be due in large part to immigrants entering the United States there, then using California as a springboard to find work in other parts of the country, said Dowell Myers, a demographer at the University of Southern California.

The 2000 census showed Hispanic population growth in large cities as well as small towns and rural areas across the country, especially in the Midwest and South.

“California has been the recipient of much of the nation’s immigration. The only way you can balance that is by exporting people out of state,” Mr. Myers said. “These numbers should in no way be attributed as a setback to California.”

The report was based on people’s responses to the 2000 census long-form question, which asked if the respondent had lived in the same address five years earlier. Those who responded “no” were then asked to say from where they had moved.

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