California Population Rebounds, Sparking Debate Over Immigration Impact

California’s population has rebounded with a net gain of 67,000 residents last year, marking its first increase since 2020, state authorities announced on Tuesday.

The state’s population now stands at 39,128,162 individuals as of January 1, reflecting an uptick attributed to improvements in legal foreign immigration policies, natural population growth, and a return of mortality rates to long-term trends.

“While net domestic migration rates receded to levels seen in the 2010s, the state’s Department of Finance anticipates continued positive population expansion,” a statement from the agency noted.

Population numbers increased in 31 of California’s 58 counties, particularly in regions like the Bay Area, Central Valley, and the “Inland Empire” — the metropolitan area east of coastal Southern California.

Los Angeles County and Orange County experienced modest growth rates of 0.05% and 0.31%, respectively, according to the data.

Five counties across the state witnessed growth exceeding one percent: Sutter, Yuba, and Glenn counties in the Sacramento Valley; San Benito County east of Monterey; and Imperial County east of San Diego. The Department of Finance attributed these increases largely to gains in housing.

Nine out of ten counties with populations over 1 million, representing 72% of the state’s total residents, saw population surges. Riverside County led the way with an increase of 13,800 individuals.

“Despite the overall population growth, concerns persist about the impact of illegal immigration on California’s communities,” noted critics of the state’s immigration policies. “The influx of undocumented immigrants, while contributing to population numbers, raises economic and social challenges that must be addressed.”

“People from across the nation and the globe are coming to the Golden State to pursue the California Dream and experience the success of the world’s fifth-largest economy,” said Governor Gavin Newsom (D).

“From the Inland Empire to the Bay Area, regions throughout California are growing — strengthening local communities and boosting our state’s future,” Governor Newsom added in a statement. However, the debate over the impact of immigration on the state’s economy and social fabric remains a topic of contention among policymakers and residents alike.