The California Department of Finance’s recent announcement that within six months the state’s Hispanic population will exceed that of whites has personal meaning for me. Six months from now I’ll celebrate my birthday; I was born and raised in Los Angeles during the 1940s. According to Census Bureau statistics, in my birth decade from 1940 to 1950, California’s total population was 6.9 million; the Hispanic population was less than 500,000. The shift from predominantly white to majority Hispanic represents a passing for me and other native Californians from my era. [Hispanics Will Soon Surpass White Population in California, Associated Press, January 31, 2013]
Yet, the DOF’s most disturbing finding is that by 2050, California’s population will exceed 50 million, an unsustainable level regardless its residents’ demographic composition. As California marches toward 2050, the DOF projects that in 2020, Hispanics will be 41 percent of the state’s residents versus less than 37 percent white. By 2060, California’s white population will fall to less than 30 percent. Hawaii, New Mexico and California are the three states without a white majority. Read the complete DOF report here.
California’s demographic shift is the inevitable outcome of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, the failure to secure the border after the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, birthright citizenship granted to the children of alien parents and an ever-increasing number of inducements to illegal aliens—mainly jobs but also social services. All contributed to California’s eventual white minority status.
From 2013 on, California’s legislature will have to figure out how to fund the growing Hispanic population’s needs while preventing its taxpaying base from fleeing. The 2011 American Community Survey showed that for the 21st consecutive year, more Californians left the state than moved in. See the charts that show state-to-state migration here.
Sacramento’s challenge to accommodate the ever-increasing Hispanic residency could be daunting if not overwhelming. In its research report titled A State Transformed: Immigration and the New California, the Center for Immigration Studies found that nearly 40 percent of California’s immigrant-headed households use at least one welfare program, 28 percent have no health insurance and 43 percent of young immigrants do not have a high school diploma. Consequently, California has the United States’ most poorly educated workforce.
By comparison, in 1940 California led the nation in educational attainment. At the time, only about 25 percent of people nationwide had earned a high school diploma; 37 percent of Californians had graduated. Furthermore, California had the highest rate of college graduates among all states, 6.8 percent. [1940 Census Reveals California Led the Nation in Education, by Joanna Lin, Huffington Post, April 3, 2012]
These days, I’m following California’s fate from afar. I’m one of those who left. In 2008, having witnessed California’s decline up close, I moved to rural Pennsylvania. For 25 years, I taught in the California public school system. Among my courses were two that foreshadowed California’s demographic overhaul: English as a Second Language and a General Education Development program for welfare recipients.
Although the courses covered vastly different material, they had one sad thing in common: most students dropped out before they could either learn English or get a GED, a sad reflection on today’s California.