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California and the West

State Population Rises 571,000 With Southland in Lead

Demographics: Total tops 34 million last year, a 1.65% increase over 1998. Los Angeles is the fastest-growing county.


SACRAMENTO — Maybe it's the sunny weather and robust economy. Maybe people are just having a lot of kids. Or perhaps, as the California Milk Advisory Board would like us to believe, it's the cheese.

Whatever the reason, for the third consecutive year the state's population rose by more than half a million people, according to 1999 data released Wednesday by the state Department of Finance.

California grew by 571,000 people last year, bringing its total population to 34,336,000 at the beginning of this year. The growth marked a 1.65% increase from 1998, when the population rose by 547,000.

"I think it has been just a very normal, positive growth year, said Linda Gage, who heads the finance department's demographic research unit.

The population estimates play an important role in the state budget process given that the state allocates tax dollars to cities and counties based on the estimates.

State officials are anxiously awaiting the outcome of the U.S. census, which is underway, to see how the federal government's numbers compare to California's annual tally.

The report found that of California's 471 cities, 421 posted population gains, 21 held steady and 29 lost population.

Los Angeles, the state's fastest-growing city in terms of sheer numbers, added 58,700 people, bringing its population to 3,823,000. Los Angeles County posted the highest population gain of any county by adding 169,400 people, with 9,884,300 people calling it home.

Based on recent trends, Gage said last year's population growth in Los Angeles County is probably being fueled by a combination of births and a steady stream of migration from other nations.

Population data from mid-1998 to mid-1999, for example, show that there were 160,000 births, 60,000 deaths and about 50,000 newcomers migrating to Los Angeles County, causing its population to grow by 150,000.

Cities such as Los Angeles, New York and Miami have traditionally acted as magnets to newcomers migrating from foreign countries, but it's likely that California's glowing economy is also helping to draw arrivals to the region.

"Certainly the good economy has been responsible for attracting people from other parts of the country and slowing down other people who live in California but may have been thinking of moving to other parts of the country," Gage said.

Other findings include:

* Kings County led the list of the 10 fastest-growing counties based on percentage by posting a 4.3% gain, followed by Yolo, Amador, Monterey and Placer.

* Coalinga in Fresno County topped the list of fastest-growing cities based on percentage. Aided by the annexation of Pleasant Valley State Prison, Coalinga grew by 46.2% or 15,200 people.

* Glendale became the 15th city in California to exceed 200,000 in population, with a total population of 203,700.

Gage said that while the number of annual births is declining in Los Angeles County and the rest of the California, infants continue to make up a significant portion of the state's growth.

Meanwhile, officials at the California Milk Advisory Board say, tongue in cheek, that the state's 130 varieties and styles of cheese could have played a role in last year's overall population jump.

"Absolutely," said Nancy Fletcher, the group's spokeswoman. "Not only is our consumer population growing but our cow population is on the rise in California too. They know it's a great place to live."


Growth Spurts

Following are the cities and counties in California that experienced the greatest population growth in 1999.


Change from City Population previous year* 1. Los Angeles 3.823 million 58,700 2. San Diego 1.277 million 21,800 3. San Jose 923,600 17,600 4. San Francisco 801,400 8,100 5. Irvine 144,600 7,400 6. Fresno 420,600 7,400 7. Chula Vista 174,300 7,200 8. Bakersfield 237,200 7,200 9. Long Beach 457,600 6,800 10. Cupertino 52,900 5,400



Change from County Population previous year* 1. Los Angeles 9.88 million 169,400 2. San Diego 2.91 million 55,600 3. Riverside 1.52 million 41,700 4. Orange 2.83 million 39,600 5. San Bernardino 1.69 million 29,100 6. Santa Clara 1.74 million 27,100 7. Sacramento 1.21 million 20,400 8. Alameda 1.45 million 15,800 9. Fresno 805,000 15,300 10. Kern 658,900 13,000


* Figures reflect change from Jan. 1, 1999 to Jan. 1, 2000

Source: California Dept. of Finance

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