Shifting California demographics bolster optimistic future

150 150 Matthew Grant Anson

California has always been a bellwether state when it comes to demographic shifts, often seeing trends fully materialize as they are just creeping into other areas of the country.

It has shoved a debate over immigration and “illegals” to the forefront and as the economic climate has worsened, that debate has become increasingly characterized by emotion and misinformation.

However, new data from just-released US census reports as well as a study conducted by California Forward shed some empirical light on the matter.

According to one new report from the Census Bureau, the United States’ foreign-born population sits at 13 percent, the highest level since 1920. Not surprisingly, it’s California leading the charge with one in four residents of the Golden State falling into the foreign-born category.

Contrary to what many may think, the same report indicates that those born outside of the United States are actually more likely to be employed than those born here.

But there is a flipside to that coin as the same report says that the foreign-born demographic with a higher employment is also less likely to have health insurance.

The overall demographic shift occurring is undeniable, however. It has long been predicted that California’s Latino population would outgrow the Caucasian one by 2015. Another Census report suggests that this might occur even sooner.

This is where California’s Latino Millennial population come in and really turn conventional wisdom and popular stereotypes upside down.

High birthrates in the Latino community is one contributing factor to this shift in demographics. Consider that while California’s overall median age is 35.4 years, Latinos are at 27.4 years, suggesting a bottom heavy population of those in the Millennial generation and younger.

And it’s these Latino millennials, through sheer force of numbers, that will have the loudest voice in California in the coming decades. According to a survey of millennials conducted by California Forward, this voice may be more optimistic than one would assume.

“What’s most impressive about these results is not just California millennials in general, but California Latino and Latina millennials who have been disproportionally adversely impacted by the results of the recession, are still by far the most optimistic of Californians,” said Dan Schnur, Director of USC’s Jesse M. Unruh Institute for Politics.

“They’ve been harmed by the state’s economy far more than any other demographic in California, yet they’re still so positive not only about their own futures, but about the state’s possibilities.”

Mike Madrid, founder of Grassroots Labs and a leading authority on Latino issues in California, attributes the coming sea of change in California politics to the fact that 65% of Latino millennials are born here.

“This Latino demographic is one where we have to engage and embrace, whether it’s on business issues, government issues, [or issues in] private and public sectors,” Madrid said. “There’s truly a unique opportunity to redefine ourselves as a state in the coming decade, and I think that’s probably largely the message of the survey: millennials are generally optimistic, but Latinos specifically are more optimistic than that. It can’t be anything but a positive for the state.”

We are all for data debunking stereotypes and rounding out the picture of what can often be an obscured debate. As a group that swells in size every year, it gives us comfort that the highly optimistic Latino Millennials are positioned to wield even greater influence in the coming decades.  


Matthew Grant Anson

All stories by: Matthew Grant Anson