By Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle
The number of Hispanic people in California will equal the non-Hispanic white population by the middle of the year and surpass it as the largest single racial or ethnic group in the state by 2014, according to projections released Thursday by the state Department of Finance.
The demographic changes will continue, and in 2060 nearly half of California’s population will be Hispanic. It’s a transformation that will have a profound impact on education, job growth and the economy, according to experts.
If the calculations prove correct, California will become the third state in the nation in which non-Hispanic white citizens are outnumbered by those of another race or ethnic group. New Mexico also has more Hispanics and Hawaii has more Asians than any other individual race.
“It’s an exciting time not only for the Hispanic population in California, but for the country, but we also need to be aware of what the repercussions could be if this rapidly rising population is not educated at the rate our job industry needs,” said Mark Martinez, the president and chief executive officer for the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce. “Studies show that higher-education attainment in the Latino community is increasing, but nowhere near where it should be at. If we do not pay attention to education and job growth, then California’s economy will suffer.”
The demographic shift is occurring in large part because California’s 10 million Baby Boomers, the vast majority of them white, are moving into retirement age, said the Department of Finance study, which analyzed age, fertility rates, migration and demographic patterns taken from the 2010 census. Meanwhile, younger Hispanics of child-bearing age are moving into the state.
Hispanics can be of any race, thus the state’s projections categorize California residents into Hispanic/Latino, non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, non-Hispanic Asian, non-Hispanic American Indian, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders who are non-Hispanic and multiracial people who are non-Hispanic.
The population projections, which are generally updated three times every decade, also show a significant increase in the number of non-Hispanic Asians in California, to just over 13 percent of the population by 2060. The non-Hispanic white population, meanwhile, will drop from 40 to 30 percent, while the number of non-Hispanic black people will decline from 6 to 4 percent of the population over the next half century. Hispanics will grow from 38 to 48 percent.
“California is the gateway state for the United States, so for those who are considering immigration from any country in the Pacific Rim, California is a likely place to go,” said Bill Schooling, chief of the demographic research unit for the Department of Finance. “It means policymakers at the state and local level have to plan for that growth and figure out policies for transportation, water, housing – all of those things that we have to bear in mind when we are looking over the horizon.”
Besides the redistribution of the races, the report shows huge population increases all over the state, including the Bay Area.
The overall population of the state, which is now 37.9 million, will reach 50 million by 2049 and hit 52.7 million by 2060, a 39 percent increase, according to the report. The 15.4 million new people who will crowd into the state between 2010 and 2060 are more than currently live in Illinois or Pennsylvania. If California were made up only of those new residents, it would currently be the fifth-largest state in the country.
Southern California will grow the fastest, with Riverside County leading the way, according to the report. The San Joaquin Valley will add 3 million new people, the Sacramento area will add 1.5 million people, and the Bay Area will add 1.8 million new people by 2060.
The decline of the Baby Boomer generation will have the biggest impact over the next two decades, according to the report. By 2030, there will be 4.1 million white people in the state who are 65 and older and 3.8 million under age 25, the report said. That’s compared with 7.2 million Hispanics under age 25 and 2.2 million over 65.
Asians in California are older and generally do not have many children, but their population is expected to continue to grow as a result of immigration, according to the report.
Stephen Levy, the director and senior economist at the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto said the growing population will need more transportation, schools, hospitals, libraries, roads and public services for the many elderly citizens. Bearing the brunt, he said, will be the Hispanic and Asian populations, both of which are having fewer babies than in the past.
“Our prosperity will depend on their prosperity,” Levy said. “The question is how we are going to replace all of those Baby Boomers in the workforce. I expect there will be pressure for increased immigration to replace these Baby Boomers because there are not enough children in the pipeline.”
Jim Wunderman, the president and chief executive officer of the Bay Area Council, said the state’s deteriorating water-distribution system, congested roadways and overworked telecommunications technology will play a much bigger role in the future than race.
“I suspect the future will be more colorblind and that, generations out, the population mix will actually benefit California,” Wunderman said. “More of a concern is whether we are able to build a proper environment to house and manage the population.”