San Diego's Population Declines: US Census Data

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Larry Cota never thought he would leave California 

“I was born and raised in California,” said Cota.

But a year ago, Cota and his wife decided to move to Nevada. Both retired and living on a fixed income they knew they could no longer afford to live in their home state. 

“The biggest savings for us is no state income tax,” said Cota.

They’re not the only ones thinking the grass may be greener outside of the golden state. 

According to the recently released U.S. Census data, San Diego county’s population fell by 11,183 residents from July 2020 to July 2022.

“It really costs a lot to live in California,” said Alan Gin, professor of economics at the University of San Diego.

Gin says the cost of living is the main driver of our state’s declining population but not the only one.

“There's also there was also a decrease in immigration, due to the restrictions in terms of covid,” said Gin.

And then there’s the pandemic.

“We had a shift to remote work due to covid and the shift to remote work then allowed people to have connections with California companies and San Diego companies and yet work in places that that were that were cheaper,” said Gin.

To be clear San Diego isn’t the epicenter of the state’s exodus. According to the California Department of Finance, San Diego's net population loss was only 0.4% of its 3.28 million residents. In comparison, LA country saw a .7% decline and San Francisco saw a .8% fall. 

Still, it’s the first time in years that San Diego has lost population year over year. 

“It is a concern because we're going to experience the same situation that a lot of businesses are experiencing in the labor market,” said Gin. “Right now, the labor market is really tight."

Luckily Gin doesn’t expect San Diego's population to continue to slide.

“I think we're gonna see things stabilize, I don't think we're going to see a fall continue,” said Gin. “I don't think we're gonna see California depopulated.” 

But as far as those who have left, they have plans of coming back.

“I don't think we could ever move back to California,” said Cota. “It just soured us to the point where we, if we moved from here, it'd be a different state.”

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