Los Angeles: Slowest Growth Since Late 1800s

Just released 2010 Census data indicates that the city of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County experienced their smallest numeric population growth since the 1890 to 1900 census period.

The city of Los Angeles had been expected to top 4,000,000 population by 2010 and the California State Department of Finance had placed the population at nearly 4,100,000 as of January 1, 2010. In fact, however the census count for April 1, 2000 was 3,793,000, up 98,000 from 3,695,000 in 2000. This means that the State Department of Finance estimated four new residents for every one actual new resident between 2000 and 2010 (We had previously questioned the aggressive population projections released by the State Department of Finance in an Orange County Register op-ed,  60 Million Californians: Don't Bet on It). The lowest number of people added in a previous census period to the population of the city of Los Angeles was 52,000, between 1890 and 1900, with growth from 50,000 to 102,000.

Los Angeles County, by far the largest in the nation, was expected to top 10,000,000 residents by 2010, and the State Department of Finance had estimated a population of 10,441,000. In fact, the census count for Los Angeles County was 9,819,000, up 300,000 from 2000. According to Bureau of the Census estimates, Los Angeles County grew much more strongly early in the decade, achieving more than three-quarters of its decadal growth by 2003. After that, the population dropped at did not recover to above the 2003 level until 2008. The population growth rate came to a near halt as housing prices escalated during the housing bubble. The State Department of Finance population estimate placed the population increase between 2000 and 2010 at more than double that counted by the Census Bureau. The lowest number of people added in a previous census period to the population of Los Angeles County was 69,000, between 1890 and 1900, with growth from 101,000 to 170,000.

The other county in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, Orange, also experienced record low growth. Orange County grew from 2,846,000 to 3,010,000 residents, adding just 164,000 to its population. Not since the 1940 to 1950 period was growth so slow, when the population rose 75,000, from 131,000 to 216,000.

Overall, the Los Angeles metropolitan area grew a lethargic 3.7 percent from 2000 to 2010. This is the slowest growth rate among the 26 metropolitan areas for which data has been reported (with the exception of New Orleans, which lost population due to Hurricane Katina). By comparison, Los Angeles metropolitan area growth between 1990 and 2000 was 9.7 percent. Both slow growing St. Louis (4.2 percent) and Chicago (3.9 percent) grew faster than Los Angeles.

The historic core municipality of Los Angeles attracted 21 percent of the metropolitan area growth, while the suburbs attracted 79 percent of the growth. The suburbs grew 6.2 percent, while the city of Los Angeles grew 2.6 percent.