American Renaissance

Ethnic Shifts Forecast In State Demographics

State projections show how dispersion, population will change

Sandy Kleffman, Contra Costa Times, May 21

Fifty years from now, California will have a very different look.

Latinos will far exceed the white population in Alameda, Contra Costa and many other counties.

San Joaquin County will triple in size, perhaps causing planners to expand their definition of the Bay Area.

Sacramento County — not Alameda, San Francisco or Los Angeles counties — will have the largest proportion of African-Americans in the state.

The state Department of Finance looked into its crystal ball Wednesday and released population projections to 2050.

It has been six years since state demographers produced such a report, based on birth and death rates and migration patterns for each county.

The statistics provide a rare snapshot of changes that will have a dramatic impact on the political, social and cultural landscape in the Golden State.

If the projections come true, the population of Contra Costa and Solano counties will nearly double during the next five decades, while Alameda County grows by 60 percent.

That stands in sharp contrast to San Francisco, where the population will dip from 781,000 to 706,000.

“San Francisco is a place that is largely built out, so it just simply doesn’t have a lot of room to build new housing,” said Hans Johnson, a demographer at the Public Policy Institute of California.

San Francisco also has an aging population, many gay residents and one of the smallest percentages of children of any major city in the United States.

The East Bay growth means traffic, infrastructure, preserving open space and providing affordable housing will continue to take center stage.

But the most dramatic shift will take place in the racial makeup.

Contra Costa County will change from 58 percent white, 18 percent Latino, 11 percent Asian and 9 percent black in 2000 to 40 percent Latino, 22 percent white, 22 percent Asian and 11 percent black.

The transformation will be fueled by a higher birth rate among young Latino families, Latinos moving into the area and a relatively older white population.

Alameda County will go from 41 percent white, 21 percent Asian, 19 percent Latino and 15 percent black in 2000 to 41 percent Latino, 30 percent Asian, 15 percent white and 8 percent black.

Solano County will continue the trend, shifting from 50 percent white, 18 percent Latino, 15 percent black and 13 percent Asian in 2000 to 47 percent Latino, 16 percent white, 14 percent black and 14 percent Asian.

As Latinos become the majority ethnic group in 20 counties, they will need to boost voter turnout to prevent their political clout from lagging, said Lupe Alonzo-Diaz, executive director of the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California.

“In some ways, we are still a sleeping giant,” she said.

“There’s still a few things on the to-do list, not only for the Latino community but for the community in general,” she added. “Latinos tend to be more uninsured than the rest of the population. They have the lowest rate of employer-based health care.”

Issues important to Latinos mirror those for the population as a whole, including education, transportation, affordable housing and a well-paying job, she said.

But the ethnic and racial change may heighten the debate over topics such as bilingual education and affirmative action, Johnson said.

By 2050, whites will remain the majority in less than 40 percent of the state’s counties.

The shift may affect the political balance.

“Latinos in California have been less likely to register and vote Republican than whites,” Johnson said.

California will grow by 60 percent, adding 20 million people to reach nearly 55 million.

While the numbers sound dramatic, the growth rate has been scaled back from previous projections and is “relatively modest, if not downright slow, compared to our history,” Johnson said.

In addition to San Francisco, six counties — Marin, Inyo, Modoc, Plumas, Siskiyou and Trinity — will lose population during the next 50 years.

Most of these counties are rural areas in the northernmost part of the state.

“They tend to be counties that have higher concentrations of the white population,” said Mary Heim, chief of the state’s demographic research unit.

Statewide, the Asian population will hold fairly steady, making up 11 to 12 percent of the population during the next five decades.

San Francisco will have the highest concentration of Asians, while San Mateo County will have the highest percentage of Pacific Islanders.

The largest percentage of American Indians will reside in Alpine County, while Inyo County will be home to the biggest concentration of multiracial people.

African-Americans will hold fairly steady at 6 or 7 percent of the population, but increasingly, they will reside in Sacramento.

Johnson notes that the 2000 Census showed a drop in the black population in cities such as Oakland, San Francisco and Berkeley. Sacramento lures many people because of its affordable housing and quality schools, he said.

Los Angeles County will remain the largest in the state, but Riverside County will add the most people, with 2.8 million new residents.

Riverside, part of the rapidly growing Inland Empire, will overtake Orange County to become the third largest, behind Los Angeles and San Diego. The Inland Empire has expanded as families leave Los Angeles and Orange County in search of more affordable housing.

After reviewing projections for San Joaquin County, Johnson said, “In many ways, we are creating our own version of the Inland Empire in Northern California.”