December 14, 2010 | Ventura County Star | Original Article

Census gives snapshot of Ventura County life

Fewer people are marching down the aisle in Ventura County as the population gets older. And the county’s older, single population is getting a lot more diverse and earning more bachelor degrees, too.

Those are some of the many snapshots that were developed when the U.S. Census Bureau released on Tuesday its latest data that highlights how the county, and the country, has evolved since 2000.

The data, which incorporates information from 2005 to 2009, is the most comprehensive look into the social, economic and cultural makeup of the country since 2000. It does not include population estimates, which are coming out later this month.

Ventura County followed a nationwide trend of fewer people getting married. About 55 percent of the men in the county are married, which is down nearly 4 percent from 2000. The percentage of women fell even more to about 52 percent, down 4.5 percent from 2000.

Adina Nack, an associate professor of sociology at California Lutheran University, said a number of factors are keeping people from saying, “I do.”

“There is less of a stigma about ‘living in sin’ as there used to be,” she said, noting more people are opting to live with their partners but choose not to get married.

She said as more young people live through their parent’s divorces, they are less inclined to get married themselves. The economy may also have something to do with it, as “dream weddings” have become such an enormous, expensive event that some may be waiting until they can afford it.

Whatever the reason, she expects the trend to continue.

“I think that we could see a continued decrease in the number of people getting married if they don’t see it as a feasible option, both financially and emotionally,” Nack said.

Santa Paula had the biggest drop in married women, down 7.7 percent; Moorpark had the biggest drop for men, down 5.6 percent. Ojai was one of the few places that saw an increase in marriage, with 6.5 percent more married men in the data showed.

Ojai was also the place that had the oldest population in the county, with a median age at more than 45, up from the 2000 figure of 42. Overall, the county’s median age was about 36, compared to about 34 in 2000. Oxnard had the youngest median age at 30.5, compared to 28.9 in 2000.

The news from Ojai was no surprise to Terri Wolfe, executive director of HELP of Ojai, a nonprofit organization for seniors. She is seeing more baby boomers come to her agency for activities and assistance as they settle into retirement. Unlike a previous generation of retirees, there are more demands for interactive activities and different ones, such as yoga and continued higher education programs.

But the aging population is going to put a strain on needed social services in a state that is already cash-strapped, said Kirk Lesh, a senior economist with the Center for Economic Resources and Forecasting at CLU.

He said one of the reasons the population is getting older is that younger adults looking for a job in California simply go elsewhere where there is lower unemployment rates and housing is more affordable.

“Those forces are creating this exodus of these young people out of the state,” he said.

Thousand Oaks had the highest median family income in the county at nearly $110,000. The county’s median family income was $83,830.

The city saw a nearly 3 percent increase in its Asian population. Thousand Oaks City Manager Scott Mitnick lives in the tony area of Lang Ranch and many of his kids’ friends are Asian, whose parents work at Amgen, Verizon and other Fortune 500 companies that have set up shop in the city. The companies brought high-paying jobs and engineers and other workers from Asia.

He said it’s the quality of life in Thousand Oaks that brings the companies to town — and the CEOs who run them and want to stay there. Whereas the county saw a slight increase in daily commuting times, Thousand Oaks had a decrease of about a minute, which Mitnick attributed to jobs being in the city.

In Ventura, the city saw about a 6 percent increase in its Latino population while the foreign-born population stayed about the same.

“It’s a town where you have good schools and a good family atmosphere and I think as the growing middle-class Latino population is looking for a place to raise their kids, they are settling on Ventura,” City Manager Rick Cole said.

Oxnard has the largest Latino population, increasing its numbers from 66 percent of its population to more than 69 percent. During that same time, the percentage of foreign born people was about the same.

Countywide, Latinos make up about 37 percent of the population, about a 4 percent increase since 2000.

As for the increase in the number of people with bachelor’s degrees, Lesh believes that has a lot to do with more people going back to school after they were laid off and wanting to improve their chances of getting a job when the economy rebounds. In Ventura County, slightly more than 30 percent of the population has a bachelor’s degree or higher. In 2000, it was almost 27 percent.

The problem, Lesh said, is that jobs are still scarce even after people get out of school.