By Travis Gillmore

Population declines continue to plague the Golden State, with a newly released report detailing the losses. While some areas in the Central Valley and Inland Empire saw growth, Southern California led the way in departures.

The state’s population dipped .4 percent from January 2022 compared to the same time this year, falling below 39 million residents for the first time since 2015, according to the California Department of Finance.

Recent declines are unprecedented in the state’s history, with data showing growth every year from 1900 until 2020—when nearly 1 percent of residents chose to leave during the height of pandemic restrictions—and declines have persisted since.

“It is crucial for California policymakers to evaluate and implement measures to reverse this concerning trend,” economists at Forensic Economic Services, an economic consulting firm headquartered in Los Angeles, told The Epoch Times in a statement May 8. “While individual decisions to relocate can be influenced by a variety of factors, it is essential for California to analyze and understand the root causes behind this significant decline.”

Seven of the 10 largest cities lost population according to the most recent data, with Fresno, Sacramento, and Bakersfield bucking the trend with modest gains of .2 percent or less.

Los Angeles lost nearly 37,000 residents between 2022 and 2023, representing the biggest decline, with Anaheim’s loss of more than 7,000 the second most, according to the finance department.

A homeless encampment fires create smoke in Los Angeles, Calif., on Jan. 2, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Lathrop in San Joaquin County experienced the most growth, gaining more than 3,500 residents, with the City of San Bernardino ranking second with an increase of approximately 2,700.

Two cities in Riverside County—Menifee and Beaumont—and Ontario in San Bernardino County made up the top five cities in the state gaining population.

Based on percentages, Paradise in Butte County saw the best growth, with population increasing approximately 24 percent to slightly more than 9,000—a fraction of the approximately 26,500 that lived there in 2017—with residents slowly returning to the area following the 2018 Camp Fire—responsible for the death of 85 people and the destruction of more than 18,000 buildings.

While some areas saw growth, the overarching trend for the state was negative, as approximately 140,000 fewer people reside in California in 2023 than did last year, with 46 of 58 counties experiencing declines.

Orange County lost more than 14,000 residents, a drop of .5 percent, and Los Angeles County lost more than 70,000—a decline of .7 percent.

As approximately 230,000 left the state, the overall number was offset by a surge in international immigration, with more than 90,000 newcomers in 2022, triple the amount of the year prior.

“The economic impact of this loss extends beyond the direct financial implications for the state,” the spokesperson for Forensic Economic Services said. “Businesses may face challenges in attracting and retaining skilled workers, which can hinder their growth and expansion plans” and the loss of tax revenues to the state’s coffers could “potentially lead to a decline in the overall quality of life for residents.”

High taxes, burdensome regulations, unaffordable housing costs, and increasing crime rates are the oft repeated reasons for those choosing to flee the state, according to experts.

For years California was a perpetual draw for families looking to improve their quality of life—known for mild weather, diverse geography, picturesque landscapes, and a uniquely talented and diverse population—but things have changed, as reported in Epoch TV’s Leaving California documentary.

With the fifth largest economy in the world and four universities ranked in the top 25 world-wide located in the state, “It was very hard to destroy that inheritance,” Victor Davis Hanson, historian at the Hoover Institution, a public policy think tank based at Stanford University, said in the film. “But we did, and how do you quantify that?”

Recently released Internal Revenue Service data also shows more people leaving for Texas than any other state, with Arizona, Nevada, Washington State, and Florida the next most chosen destinations for ex-Californians.

“People are going to places that were once known as hell—hot Texas and desert Nevada—that have become paradise in their mind,” Hanson said. “We took paradise and turned it into hell.”

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