California Is Set to Lose a House Seat. What Now?
Tuesday: For the first time in California’s history, the state will lose congressional representation, based on new census data.,
On Monday, the U.S. Census Bureau reported new numbers that reflected a nation in a period of profound flux: Over the past decade, our country’s population grew at its slowest rate since the 1930s, according to my colleagues Sabrina Tavernise and Rob Gebeloff.
California’s growth, too, has slowed to some of its lowest levels in recent years. And the report on the decennial census makes official what demographers have long predicted: California will lose a congressional seat for the first time in its 170-year history.
The state’s population increased by just 6.1 percent over the past decade, compared with a 7.4 national average, according to the census, whose count was disrupted last year by both the pandemic and the Trump administration. The state’s House delegation will shrink to 52 members.
Here’s more about what it all means for the Golden State:
Does California still have the most people?
Yes. Rest assured that California’s official population of 39,538,223 is still far and away the largest of any state, according to the census. Texas added the most new residents over the last decade, but it was still a distant second with about 29.1 million residents.
The least populous state, for reference, was Wyoming, with about 577,000 residents — less than half the population of the city of San Diego.
Why has California’s population growth slowed? How long has it been like this?
As my colleague Shawn Hubler wrote, it’s a major shift for California, which was long “America’s boomtown writ large.” The population almost doubled to that roughly 40 million figure in just the last four decades.
But, as in the rest of the nation, the state’s birthrates have plummeted. In California, the decline has been pronounced since the aftermath of World War II, when the state’s baby boom helped the state grow.
Demographers say that more recent generations waited longer to have families, as would-be parents faced rising costs of living and as education levels rose. The average age of becoming a parent in California rose to 31 by 2019 from 28 in 2010.
Out-of-control housing costs have also prompted a bigger share of California’s population to move elsewhere in the United States than the share who moved in from other states — although experts have cautioned that the trend hardly amounts to a death knell for the California Dream, as some in other states, like Texas, have suggested.
“You will know that California has truly crossed a line when home prices start falling,” Christopher Thornberg, founding partner of Beacon Economics, a consulting firm in Los Angeles, told me late last year.
And, well, home prices have done the opposite.
More recently — and particularly during the Trump administration — immigration slowed significantly. Immigration represented between 0.4 and 0.5 percent of California’s annual population increase through the first half of the decade, H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Finance, told Shawn. But starting in 2017, when President Donald J. Trump took office, that began to decline, to less than 0.1 percent last year.
If California is still growing, why is it going to lose a congressional seat?
As Eric McGhee, a political participation expert with the Public Policy Institute of California, explained early last year: “It’s a zero-sum game.”
Although for much of American history, seats were added freely to the House of Representatives, in 1911, the number was capped at 435.
Which means that your state can grow and still lose representation, if it doesn’t grow enough relative to other states.
In 2011, California’s number of representatives stayed flat for the first time, at 53. And while there were concerns about participation in the census last year for a host of reasons, demographers were already forecasting that the state could lose a seat.
What happens next?
Broadly, the shifts will redistribute political power across the country — although it remains to be seen what that will look like.
In California, the process of redistricting begins. It happens after each census, whether or not the state loses or gains representation. But experts have told me that this time, the members of the nonpartisan citizens commission empaneled to redraw the state’s congressional district boundaries will really have their work cut out for them.
See which states will gain or lose seats in the next Congress. (Texas, which will gain two seats, was the big winner.)
Read the full story on the new numbers, which show a long-running trend of the South and the West gaining residents at the expense of the Northeast and the Midwest.
Read about all the various factors that have contributed to California’s slowing population growth.
Here’s what to know about California’s redistricting process.
In the Bay Area, an unprecedented “baby bust” took place during the pandemic, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Here’s what else to know today
Compiled by Jonathan Wolfe
The California secretary of state’s office confirmed in its latest report that organizers of an effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom had gotten enough verified signatures to lead to an election. Mr. Newsom had already acknowledged that a recall election was all but certain.
Anne Marie Schubert, the Sacramento district attorney, announced a run for California attorney general, challenging the incumbent, Rob Bonta, The Sacramento Bee reports.
California has the lowest coronavirus cases rate in the United States, The Los Angeles Times reports.
The Los Angeles Unified School District has reopened all schools as of this week, giving all students the option to return to campus, NBC Los Angeles reports.
The state passed a law to help tenants during the pandemic, but complex rules and landlord resistance are preventing many Californians from receiving help, CalMatters reports.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced that is planning to reinstate California’s ability to regulate vehicle emissions, an authority taken away under President Trump, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The San Francisco Symphony will return to in-person concerts in May, KQED reports.
A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Monday, and could be seen as far as San Diego, CBS Los Angeles reports.
Real estate: $1.8 million homes in California.
More Oscars coverage
Six years after #OscarsSoWhite, a diverse roster of artists won awards, though Anthony Hopkins winning best actor over Chadwick Boseman surprised many.
Fewer than 10 million people watched the Oscars, 58 percent fewer viewers than last year’s record low.
What did the Oscars say about movies? New York Times critics puzzled it out.
Justin Chang, a film critic for The Los Angeles Times, wrote about awards season — and what it means to be a critic — after his friend’s film, “Minari,” was nominated for two Oscars.
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Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.