Recently released details of the 2010 census in California reveal two important sociological trends about the state, according to analyses by the University of Southern California's School of Policy, Planning and Development.
One is that while Californians still congregate in households as much as they ever did, their composition is changing with fewer traditional husband-and-wife-and-kids families and more headed by single parents or unmarried adults without children. In fact, just one third of California's 12.6 million households include children, which is one of the lowest ratios of any state.
The second finding, related to the household analysis, is that the number of children also declined in California during the last decade even as the state's population rose by 10 percent, which coincides with an aging trend in the population as a whole.
More than half of California's population is now over 35 years old and the median age of 35.2 is two years higher than it was in the 2000 census. The number of California children aged 5 to 9 declined by 220,041 from 2000 to 2010, and the drop in Los Angeles County alone was 260,195.
"We are ground zero of the 'missing children' of California," said Dowell Myers, a professor of urban planning and demography at USC and a co-author of both analyses.
Whether the decline of children is permanent or temporary, however, is open to question. Births dropped off sharply in California during the late 1990s and early 2000s, but picked up later in the decade. Also, many demographers suspect that the 2010 census missed hundreds of thousands of people in Los Angeles County, especially those in its very large population of illegal immigrants.