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California drops in population for first time in history as Austin continues to boom

More people left Los Angeles than moved to the city in 2020, a pattern that can be seen in many California cities. (City of Los Angeles/Twitter)

A week after Texas added two congressional seats and California lost one, state officials reported a population decline in 2020 for the first time in the Golden State's history.

California fell by over 182,000 people from January 2020 to January 2021, dropping almost 0.5% to cap out at around 39.5 million people. It is still the nation's most populous state.


For over thirty years, California has seen more people leave than move in from other states, state officials said, with 6.1 million people moving out and 4.9 million coming in last year. Immigration and births kept California growing, but the state saw a shrink in international migration in 2020 due to COVID and the White House's hold on visas.

Of the steady flow of ex-Californians moving to other states, more are moving to Texas than any other state. Many are relocating to Austin, which has been labeled a "little California" by billionaire resident Elon Musk and continues to grow astronomically.

Meanwhile, California cities including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco saw a population decline.

With immigration and state migration on the decline, the Golden State was also hit with a spike in deaths—51,000 people died from COVID in 2020, and all but seven of the state's counties saw death rates higher than the three-year average.

Still, the California Department of Finance said a "slightly positive annual growth" can be expected next year as the state recovers from COVID deaths and political repercussions.

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