Census Crimps California’s Political Clout, Shocks Golden State

Thursday, 23 Dec 2010 07:00 AM

 

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California, facing $28 billion in deficits, may see its congressional clout wane as slowing population growth deprives it of a new seat in the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in its 160-year history.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported this week that California’s population climbed 10 percent in the last decade to 37.3 million people, its slowest rate ever. The Golden State’s growth cooled because of souring housing prices, technology-industry job losses and lower levels of migration. That may translate into less influence in the nation’s capitol.

The state with the biggest population still controls the most seats in the House, 53 of 435. Reapportionment based on 2010 Census data will narrow the gap between California and faster-growing southern and western states such as Texas, which picked up four seats to 36.

“We’ve always gained a seat -- just staying even is a bit of a shock,” Douglas Johnson, a fellow at the Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, said in a telephone interview. “California never likes to think of itself as average in anything, and now we’re average in population growth.”

Congressional power has consequences. The budget that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers enacted in October after a record 100-day impasse relies on $5.3 billion in federal funds for welfare, education and prison costs. Schwarzenegger, who last year said he would get $7 billion from the federal government, was forced to cut that estimate in half after officials in Washington wouldn’t commit to the money.

‘Disappointing Number’

“It’s a bit of a disappointing number, as you want more political power and you want more federal funds flowing to your state,” said Hans Johnson, director of research at the Public Policy Institute of California in San Francisco. “It wasn’t a good number for California.”

California, home to 14 percent of the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index including Apple Inc., Google Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc., was hit hard by the dot-com bust in 2000 that triggered job cuts across Silicon Valley. The state remains mired in 12.4 percent unemployment, higher than the 9.8 percent national rate in November.

The state’s largest industries by revenue are technology, consumer services and oil and gas, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. All lost ground in the recession. The state’s biggest employer, Hewlett-Packard Co., the world’s largest maker of personal computers, announced in June that it was cutting 9,000 jobs in a restructuring.

Lost Tech Jobs

Silicon Valley lost more than 108,000 technology jobs from 2000 to 2008, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said in the January edition of the Monthly Labor Review. Wages for the Valley’s technology workers dropped 16 percent from 2000 to 2004, then gained 4.4 percent through mid-2009, the bureau said.

With the jobs chill, California estimates only 67,000 people migrated to the state this year, one-fifth the number earlier in the decade. Its population rose to 37,253,956 on April 1, from 33,871,648 10 years earlier, Census figures show.

While California has long been attractive to international migrants who come to California from such places as India to work in the technology industry, more residents have moved out recently than have moved in from other states, Johnson said. In part, that’s because of California’s comparatively high unemployment rate and high cost of living, he said.

“What this Census number suggests is that the international immigrants that we have received have been offset by domestic migration losses to other states,” Johnson said.

Demographic Change

The decade also witnessed a decline in the state’s Anglo- American population to 40.8 percent by 2008 from 47.2 percent in 2000, according to data from the California Finance Department’s demographics office. The state’s Latino population grew to 37.2 percent in 2008 from 32.5 percent at the turn of the century.

California’s expensive housing market also contributed to the slowing in population growth, said Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto.

The median price of a previously occupied home in California had reached $480,820 by December 2007, according to the California Association of Realtors. That was twice the $207,100 national median at the time, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. Since then, the California median has fallen to $296,820 in November, though that’s still more than 40 percent higher than the $170,600 national median.

“The housing price differential that’s built up over the past 20 years has contributed to the growth rate slowing in California,” Levy said in a telephone interview.

High Foreclosure Rates

Seven of the 10 U.S. cities with the highest home- foreclosure rates in November were in California, according to RealtyTrac Inc., an Irvine, California-based data company.

California ranks 15th compared with other states in taxes and fees paid from every $100 of personal income, according to the state Finance Department. While not as high as places such as New York and Delaware, the rate has spurred people to leave for nearby states such as Nevada, which ranks 28th.

Congressional districts are redrawn every 10 years after completion of the census, with each to have roughly the same number of people. After the 2000 census, each House lawmaker was supposed to represent about 647,000 people. That number will now grow to about 710,000, the Census Bureau said.

California gained House seats following every census since the state was admitted into the Union in 1850 except in 1920, when Congress couldn’t agree on a formula to divvy up the seats. As a result, it failed to change any state’s apportionment.

California voters in November passed a ballot measure stripping state lawmakers of their power to draw the boundaries of congressional districts. Instead, a Citizens Redistricting Commission made up of five Republicans, five Democrats and four members who aren’t from either party will use the latest census data to redraw the state’s congressional districts.

The population of the U.S. rose 9.7 percent since 2000 to 308,745,538 on April 1, the slowest pace of growth since 1930- 1940, according to Census figures.

 


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