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November 1996, Volume 3, Number 11

California: Population, Housing and Labor

Population. The US Census Bureau released its projections of California's population in October, and projected that the state would have 49.3 million residents in 2025. In 2025, California is projected to have 21 million Hispanics, 15 million non-Hispanic whites, nine million Asians, and three million Blacks.

California's Latino population is expected to double between 1995 and 2025 and account for a third of the total Latino population in the US in 2025. California is projected to add a net 18 million residents between 1995 and 2025, including nine million immigrants.

The Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy in mid-October released a study that projected that California will gain a net 25,000 residents from other states in 1996, the first net population growth due to internal migration since 1991.

In August, 1996 California was creating a net 25,000 new jobs each month.

Latino Income. Pepperdine University's Institute for Public Policy issued a report in October that argued that, after 20 years in the US, a significant number of Latinos enter the middle class. According to 1990 Census data, there were nearly four times as many US-born Latino households in the middle class in Southern California as there were in poverty. Middle class was defined as a household incomes above $35,000 or owning a home.

Latinos in 1990 were about one-third of the population of the five-county Southern California region--Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, Riverside and San Bernardino counties--and one-fourth of all residents identified as middle class. Two-thirds of Latino households in Southern California are headed by immigrants and two-thirds of the Latino households headed by recent immigrants had household incomes of less than $35,000. In Los Angeles County, Latino households make up nearly 47 percent of all poor households.

The report paints a picture of hard-working, family-oriented people who are gradually increasing their incomes and purchasing homes, often by pooling the income of several persons in large households.

Housing. Construction normally leads California out of recession, with each 200,000 to 300,000 of added population typically associated with 100,000 new home starts. The Wall Street Journal on October 10, 1996 argued that immigrants are behind the current mini-housing boom in California. Asians are particularly apt to press on to home ownership.

In 1986, California had over 300,000 new housing starts and the net addition of over 700,000 people, but in 1991, housing starts fell to less than 100,000 and have remained there since. More US-born residents are leaving than are entering California, giving the state a net loss of population due to domestic migration of over 300,000 per year for the past five years.

According to housing experts, there are about three immigrants per housing unit, versus two US-born persons per housing unit. In some areas, such as Los Angeles, immigrants can buy houses vacated by US-born persons leaving the area, but in cities such as Fresno, their arrival leads to new construction.

The five most common names of home buyers in the Los Angeles area in 1995 were Hispanic; Smith was the eighth most common name.

Since 4.5 million legal and illegal immigrants arrived in the past 16 years, the California housing industry projects the need for an additional 1.3 million housing units. The Hispanic population of California is projected to increase by 38 percent over the next decade, but the Hispanic population between the ages of 35 and 54, prime home-buying ages, is projected to rise by 75 percent.

Latinos are optimistic. An August, 1996 Field Poll of 553 Latinos showed that 50 percent of the Latinos, but only 42 percent of all Californians surveyed, believe they will be better off a year from now. Some 54 percent of Latinos in California earn less than $20,000 a year, compared with 30 percent of the entire state's work force.

Two-thirds of California's net population growth is due to immigration. There are about 20 million residents of southern California and over one third, or eight million, were born abroad. Indeed, about one third of all the foreign-born persons in the US live in southern California.

Welfare. On January 1, 1997, payments to the 2.7 million California recipients of Aid to Families With Dependent Children will be cut by 4.9 percent in urban areas and 9.8 percent in 41 rural counties. An urban family of three will see its monthly check drop about $29, to $565, and rural families of three will get $538.

California began hearings around the state on implementing the new welfare law and, at the first hearing in Fresno on October 24, 1996, local officials in the "Valley of the poor" complained that legal immigrants removed from welfare rolls would become the responsibility of county governments.

However, the state's legislative analyst predicted that, since most of the immigrants receiving welfare in California have been in the state for at least five years, many will apply for US citizenship to keep their benefits.

In Fresno county, California, the nation's major agricultural county, legal immigrants are 14 percent of the population, but constitute one-third of those receiving AFDC.

Schools. In Fall 1996, there were be a record 52 million children enrolled in K-12 schools, topping a 51 million peak during the baby boom in 1971. The enrollment surge in the 1990s is due primarily to the baby-boom echo,--the baby boomers of the 1960s having children-- to increased immigration and higher fertility, especially among Hispanics.

A new study found that more than 40 percent of the children enrolled in K-12 education in 1996-97 are Hispanics and their share of public school enrollment is expected to top 50 percent by the year 2004. Relatively few Hispanics complete high school in a manner that makes them eligible for admission to the University of California. For every 100 Latino students in 10th grade, only four become eligible for admission into UC, which accepts the top 12.5 percent of high school graduates, and only one enrolls in UC.

California has 1.3 million K-12 children who are not fluent in English, and the state is grappling with how to reform bilingual education. Bilingual education is currently governed by court cases and state regulations written after the last bilingual education law expired in 1987. They require that bilingual programs must be based on sound educational theory, must be given sufficient resources to allow that theory to make a difference and must produce results.

A September 1996 poll found that 70 percent of Latino parents said teaching children to read and write in English should be the schools' top priority.

Labor. In September 1996, the city of Glendale near Los Angeles began banning workers seeking day jobs and employers seeking workers from public roads. The city is, however, building a structure with restrooms and chairs where day laborers can wait to be hired. Violations of the street hiring law can result in fines of up to $500 or six months in jail.

Free classes in English and job-related skills are planned for the men as they wait for work.

Beginning in the mid-1980s, many southern California cities have sponsored day labor markets to avoid worker loitering near home improvement stores. The city of Los Angeles is now operating two sites for day laborers, in North Hollywood and Harbor City, but does not ban street soliciting for jobs. In 1991, Agoura Hills banned street labor markets, its ordinance was upheld and Ladera Heights and La Mirada soon followed with similar ordinances.

However, these cities have found it difficult to enforce their laws. Studies suggest that only one-fourth to one-third of the day laborers are unauthorized workers.

Illegal Immigration. A study released by the Public Policy Institute of California concluded that illegal immigration from Mexico to California reacts to changes in the economies of Mexico and California. Demographer Hans Johnson used a variety of data to estimate the flow of illegal immigrants to California from Mexico between 1980 and 1993.

According to Johnson, illegal immigration accounted for 22 to 31 percent of the state's population growth between 1980 and 1993. Johnson found that when California's economy boomed in the mid to late 1980s, the state experienced brisk job growth and illegal immigration peaked. When California suffered from a severe recession in the early 1990's, illegal immigration fell.

In mid-June, state lawyers argued before a federal judge that California was suffering from an "invasion" of illegal immigrants, since the estimated 1.7 to 1.8 million illegal residents in California are five percent of the state's population. According to the state's lawyer, an invasion is the "illegal entry of so many persons that it is beyond the capability of the state to handle."

An August 1996 survey of 1,100 Riverside county residents found that, although 68 percent thought that illegal immigration was a "big problem," most think that the US should continue to permit all persons born in the US to be US citizens.

On October 6, 1996, the Los Angeles Times reported that California, the only state whose Medicaid program pays for emergency hospitalization in Canada or Mexico, was being falsely billed for hundreds of thousands of dollars by Mexican border city doctors.

California in mid-1996 had 163,300 full-time state employees. They were 58 percent non-Hispanic white, 17 percent Hispanic, 12 percent African-American and six percent Asian.

Virginia Ellis, "Welfare Official Warns of Threat From New Law," Los Angeles Times, October 25, 1996. Bernard Wysocki, "Influx of immigrants adds new vitality to housing market," Wall Street Journal, October 10, 1996. Steve Ryfle, "2-Pronged Plan for Street-Side Job Seekers," Los Angeles Times, September 13, 1996. David Lesher and Dan Morain, "Care for Disabled Illegal Immigrants Periled," Los Angeles Times, September 4, 1996. Rochelle Sharpe, "Record school enrollments lie ahead," Wall Street Journal, August 22, 1996.