California’s population shrank by more than 182,000 people in 2020, the first year-over-year decline in the country’s most populous state. The state’s population fell 0.46 percent to just under 39.5 million people between January 2020 and January 2021, according to state officials.
The news comes just a week after the US Census Bureau reported a minor increase in the country’s population.
However, those Census figures reflect the population of the state in April 2020. The new state population figures released on Friday reflect the population of the state as of January 2021.
The California Department of Finance blamed the population decline on former President Trump, international immigration restrictions, a declining natural birth rate, and increased deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic in a press release.
The report makes no mention of population changes due to net domestic migration, or the difference between the number of people moving in from another state and those moving out.
California, the most populous state in the United States, has long been the nation’s leader in domestic outmigration, a trend that has prompted criticism of the state’s high taxes and progressive politics for decades.
Because of the recall effort against Governor Gavin Newsom, the state’s population has become a political issue this year, with Republicans blaming high taxes and the governor’s pandemic policies for people fleeing the state.
According to a census analysis by the Public Policy Institute of California, about 6.1 million people left California for other states between 2010 and 2020, compared to about 4.9 million people who moved to California from other states.
California had a negative international migration in 2020, which state officials say was a direct impact from the Trump administration’s decision to stop issuing new visas for much of that year.
‘As the pandemic recedes and with changes in federal immigration policy, we expect to return to more normal immigration trends into California from other countries,’ said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the Department of Finance. ‘All of which means that by the time we do this same projection 12 months from now, we expect that 2021 will show a return to a slightly positive growth rate.’