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California's population will grow much more slowly than current official projections as immigration and birth rates decline and the state's residents will grow markedly older, according to a massive new study by University of Southern California demographers released today.

The state Department of Finance currently projects that California will add roughly 5 million persons each decade to its population through 2050, but those numbers are five years old and the department is now upgrading its calculations in response to the 2010 census.

Meanwhile, researchers at USC's Sol Price School of Public Policy project that the state will add only about 3.5 million per decade as growth shrinks to under 1 percent per year. If that's true, it would mean about 5 million fewer Californians in 2050 than previously thought.

The USC report, available here, says it will mean "a new era of aging" as baby boomers and then their children retire. The state's 65-plus population is expected to rise from 11.4 percent in 2010 to 18.6 percent by 2030.

The public policy consequences of slower population growth and a rapid increase in older Californians are many, affecting the need for transportation, schools and other forms of infrastructure, demands for services for the elderly and the tax revenues to support them.

Coincidentally, the USC report was released, just a day after the Pew Hispanic Center released a new report on immigration, concluding that "the largest wave of immigration in history from a single country to the United States has come to a standstill."

In four decades, the Pew report says, 12 million persons entered the United States from Mexico, more than half illegally, but the flow has stopped and may have reversed due to a weak U.S. economy, tougher border enforcement and declines in Mexico's birth rates and economy.

California, the USC report notes, has been the single largest recipient of immigration from Mexico.



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