March 9, 2011 | USA Today | Original Article

California sees slowest growth since Depression

LOS ANGELES - The state that spurred a migration from the rest of the country and the world for 150 years experienced its slowest growth since the Great Depression this past decade, new 2010 Census data show.

Even so, California's demographic makeup showed dramatic changes since 2000 as the Hispanic and Asian populations rose and the white share of the state count fell to two in five residents.

The black population declined just under 1%, its first drop ever in the state.

Gains by Hispanics did not keep pace with the 1990s rate: up 28% vs. 43%. Still, Hispanics are 38% of the state's population. The Asian population rose 31% to 4.8 million - 13% of the state. Non-Hispanic whites declined 5.4%.

The next generation augurs even bigger ethnic and racial changes. California's child population is increasingly Hispanic. The numbers of non-Hispanic black and white children shrank by one-fifth, says Kenneth Johnson, demographer at the University of New Hampshire.

The figures reflect a reality already seen in California's public schools, where a majority of students are Hispanic, says Hans Johnson, demographer at the Public Policy Institute of California.

"The future of California depends on the successful integration of immigrants and their children into our economy and society," he says.

Hispanics' gains mean rising voting strength, says Tom Saenz, president of MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Polling showed that in the last election, Hispanics were 22% of the electorate, and they voted overwhelmingly for Democrats, who swept statewide offices last November despite a Republican trend elsewhere.

Overall, California's population grew 10% to 37.3 million - just above the national rate of 9.7% and below the 1990s pace of 13.8%.

The population total means California does not gain a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time since 1930. Saenz says he expects the population change to produce more Hispanic representation in Congress after district maps are redrawn to reflect the Census findings.

The slowdown "is something you never would've thought of for most of the post-World War II period," says demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institution.

Rapid expansion of inland areas continued as coastal communities grew much more slowly. Although hit hard by unemployment and home foreclosures, inland Riverside and San Bernardino counties grew 42% and 19% respectively.

Los Angeles grew 3%, to 3,792,621. Among the state's next four biggest cities, San Diego grew 7%, San Jose 6% and San Francisco 4%.