Thursday, July 12, 2007

Hispanics are expected to be California's majority population by 2042

Meredith May:

Hispanics will make up a majority of California's population by 2042, while the state's highest percentage of Asian Americans will live in Alameda County and Pacific Islanders will concentrate in Santa Clara County, according to projections released Monday by the state Department of Finance.

Since the 1960s, Hispanics have been the state's fastest-growing immigrant group, and the majority have been from Mexico. Today, Hispanics in California number 13.1 million, one-third of the state's population. Experts are getting closer to pinpointing a year that Hispanics will replace non-Hispanic whites as California's new majority group.

"The numbers have been creeping up for years now, and at some point there's going to be this tilt," said Melanie Martindale, a demographer with the state Department of Finance. "Maybe if we do our projections again in five years, the tilt year may be a few years different, but either way, it's going to come."

The trends have been evident for a long time. Immigrants, their children and grandchildren have accounted for more than half the nation's population increase since 1967, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

In California, minorities from all groups combined -- 20 million -- now outnumber whites. Only Washington, D.C., and three other states also have minority-majorities: Hawaii, New Mexico and Washington.

In the new report, state demographers used the latest county population estimates as a baseline to make assumptions about future migration patterns. The formulas they used accounted for undocumented immigrants, Martindale said.

In 2042, California will probably include many mixed-race families with second- and third-generation children speaking English, said Karthick Ramakrishnan, assistant professor of political science at UC Riverside.

"It's unlikely schools will become Spanish-language schools -- there's so much diversity in California that families are going to blend and what it means to be Hispanic is going to change," said Ramakrishnan, who has co-written population studies for the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonpartisan think tank.

Future predictions also have to take the economy into account, he said. It's unclear how many Hispanics will move out of California by 2042, especially if the state remains one of the country's most expensive places to live.

By midcentury, it's estimated that Hispanics will comprise 52 percent of California's 59.5 million residents. Imperial County in Southern California will have the largest percentage of Hispanics.

Los Angeles County will remain the state's most populous county, with 13 million people. Riverside County's population will jump from the state's sixth to second by 2050, and San Diego County will remain in third place, with 4.4 million. By midcentury, San Bernardino County will have the highest proportion of African Americans and Trinity County will be home to the highest concentration of whites.

Although the report does not mention the impact of population growth, immigration is among California's most-pressing issues because of the expected strains on natural resources and public services.

In the Bay Area, Alameda County will have the highest percentage of Asian Americans statewide, and Santa Clara County will have the most Pacific Islanders.

Ener Chiu, an affordable-housing project manager at the East Bay Asian Local Development Corp. in Oakland, is seeing the Asian population grow and spread out of Chinatown to East Oakland as residents look for more affordable housing.

"Thirty years ago, you could say the majority of Asian folks in this county lived in Chinatown, then the Vietnamese population came in and Asians are spreading east," he said.

East Bay Asian Local Development Corp. has 480 housing units in Chinatown and another 780 under construction in East Oakland.

"My guess is that that Asian immigrants coming to Alameda County in the future will be like the ones coming today, who are more likely to be monolingual and need low-income housing," he said.

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