Whites in State ‘Below the Replacement’ Level

Justin Berton, San Francisco Chronicle, June 5, 2010

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There were half a million fewer whites in California in 2008 than in 2000, a period when the state’s overall population grew by 4 million to 38.1 million, according to a study released Thursday by the state Department of Finance.

By 2008, whites made up 40 percent of Californians, down from 47 percent at the turn of the century. In 2000, Hispanics comprised 32 percent of the population; that number grew to 37 percent in 2008.

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“This is the first decade to see a year-over-year consistent population decrease due to natural causes,” said Mary Heim, chief of the Finance Department’s demographic research unit.

The study also confirmed projections that a steadily growing Hispanic population will surpass whites as the state’s largest racial demographic in 2016. Hispanics are expected to become a majority of all Californians in 2042, Heim said.

Most Bay Area counties reflected the state’s shifting numbers–Alameda County, for example, dropped from 41 percent white to 36 percent–while showing spikes in Hispanic, Asian and multirace categories.

Yet, San Francisco’s racial mix remained consistent. Forty-four percent of the city was white in 2008, 30 percent was Asian and 14 percent was Hispanic, just as it was in 2000. Only the city’s African American population showed a slight decline, from 7 percent to 6 percent.

Below replacement level

The median age among California’s whites is 44, while the median age for the Hispanic population is 28, according to the study.

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Reverse of a trend

Johnson said migration into California was a national trend until the 1990s, when the number of out-of-state transplants began to decline.

Lower-paid California workers headed to cities like Phoenix, Las Vegas and Seattle, where they could make similar wages but pay less for housing.

“California is no longer attracting large numbers of people from other states,” Johnson said. “And a lot of those who did come to California from other states were white, reflecting the ethnic composition of the country as a whole.

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The decline among whites and increase in other groups in California is a long-standing trend, Johnson said.

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