California is the most populous state in the country. It contains about 40 million people, 1 in every 8 people living in the US. For anyone who has been in major cities in the state, there’s a feeling that there are too many people around. So, is California overpopulated?
Yes, California is overpopulated, although it ranks tenth among states for population density. Five counties in Southern California contain almost half of the state population. Effects of overpopulation here include drought, traffic congestion, expensive housing, and overcrowding in major cities.
However, the population is declining due to various reasons ranging from migration by residents to reduced foreign immigration. Here, we discuss whether California is overpopulated.
How Many People Are in California?
California has a population of over 39 million people. This puts it ahead of Texas and Florida as the state with the most population in the US. According to projections, the state will have 45 million people by 2050. Population growth slowed down after a rapid population growth in the 20th century. It even declined in 2020, the first time that happened since 1900.
The state had a population of 21 million in 1974 and grew to 32 million by 1994. It had 37 million by 2000. Since then, it has only increased by 5.8% to reach 39.4 million in 2020. In 2018, the state population increased by 141,300. But there was a net outflow of nearly 198,000 people from California to other states. The increase was possible because the foreign immigration in the same year was 158,000, and the natural increase accounted for 181,000.
In 2020, the population declined by 182,083. This was mostly due to the Covid 19 pandemic. Between January 2020 and July 1, 2021, the Department of Finance estimated that almost 300,000 people lost their lives between January 1 2020, and July 1, 2021. Other factors contributing to the decline are the reduction in international migration due to the lockdown and ban on global traveling. The declining population in California led to the state losing a congressional seat in 2020.
Population Density of California
Although California has the largest population, it’s also the third biggest state by landmass. This makes it have a low population density compared to smaller states. California is the tenth most densely populated state in the country at 251 residents per square mile. The most densely populated states in the country are New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Florida, New York, etc.
Even if it has a low population density, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not overpopulated. Population density doesn’t tell the degree of urbanization or population distribution in the state. Although the state is very big, a large part is mountainous, and there’s also a hostile desert in its south. This means the population in the state isn’t evenly distributed. Some parts of the state don’t have as much concentration as others. Five counties, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, and San Diego, contain over 19 million people, about half the state population.
Overcrowding in California
Overpopulation in California is more of a problem in the major cities, especially Los Angeles and San Francisco. This is most evident when one considers overcrowding in major cities. The Department of Housing and Urban Development describes overcrowding as when there’s more than one person per room.
Using that definition, the highest overcrowding rates in the country belong in two cities in California, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The Los Angeles region has an overcrowding rate of 1.5%, far above New York with 0.69%. In addition, Los Angeles has 13.2% of residents in overcrowded homes compared to New York City with 9%.
Why is California Overpopulated?
California’s overpopulation is mostly about the improper distribution of the population. Southern California contains a disproportionate proportion of the people compared to other parts, and more people are moving there. The reason for this is that it’s attractive to many. In addition, Southern California boasts of excellent weather that’s mostly snow-free, beaches, and usually dry and warm summer.
The economy is also great, and there are many high-paying jobs in every sector. Whether you’re looking for a STEM role, want something artistic, or looking to start a business, this is the place for many. Coupled with these is its diverse nature. California is a melting pot containing people from all walks of life. It’s one of the major entry points for immigration, both legal and illegal, in the US. Due to the state’s economy and job opportunities, this is one of the prime spots for foreigners migrating to the US.
Effects of Overcrowding in California
Overpopulation is a problem in California, and the effects are evident all over the city. These include:
One of the major effects of overpopulation in the state is drought. The population of the state means that there’s a higher demand for water across the state. What makes it even worse is the distance water has to be transported for use. Even when the state gets enough water, the infrastructure for transporting water from the North to Southern California further contributes to the drought.
There are also issues such as uneven rainfall, farm water use, industrial use, etc., all of which are higher with more people. Most of the water consumption in the state is not even residential, with only about 15% of the water use serving that purpose.
2. High Housing Costs
Homes in California are one of the most expensive in the country. One of the reasons for this is overpopulation which has increased the demand for homes, leading to very high costs. The average cost of homes in the city is more than double the national average. Rents are equally high. It’s unlikely that this will reduce anytime.
3. Traffic Congestion
Unsustainable population growth in the state has taken a toll on the state. One of the ways it has affected it is through traffic congestion. Among metropolitan areas, Los Angeles and San Francisco rank 6th and 7th for congestion in the US. Drivers in these cities lose over 100 hours combined annually. The hours spent in traffic also means increased air pollution in the cities.
California is overpopulated in Southern California, where almost two-thirds of the state lives. This has affected the quality of life in the state. Although there’s a decline in population growth, overpopulation in California remains a major issue.