The pace of motherhood in California is slowing and its members are aging, a shift demographers expect to continue and contribute to far-reaching and uncertain changes in the decades to come.
Last year, the state reached a historic milestone: the lowest birth rate on record — 12.4 births per thousand people. That rate was 12.3 for Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties and a Southern California News Group analysis of state projections shows the region’s rate could fall another 24 percent by 2040.
The unemployment rate for Hispanic or Latino workers fell to 4.8% last month, the lowest level on records back to the 1970s. The rate for black Americans was 7.1%, the second-lowest monthly rate, bested only by April 2000’s 7% reading, according to the Labor Department. The decline in unemployment for blacks and Hispanics comes with a significant caveat: Both June lows are higher than the 3.8% rate for whites, and the 4.4% overall rate.
These changes will define, and perhaps undermine, our economy by creating a dearth of new workers. Between 2013 and 2025, the number of high school graduates in our state is expected to drop by 5 percent, compared to a 19 percent increase in Texas, 10 percent growth in Florida and a 9 percent rise in North Carolina. Some, of course, may hail these trends. Environmental activists and their allies in the density lobby generally prefer a childless population, both to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to expand their influence. Some tech-oriented futurists may even suggest that robots will replace all but the most skilled of workers, making additional children more a burden than a blessing. Yet, for California employers — at least until the technological nirvana — a labor shortage, particularly in skilled trades, could prove troubling in the near-term, and even medium-term, future. Historically, California could count on migration from both the rest of the nation and abroad. But this seems to have changed dramatically. The state has lost more domestic migrants than it has gained since at least 2000. Net immigration, the other lodestone of our labor force growth, has also slowed.
Historically, California’s great strength was the diversity of its economy, stretching from high-tech and aerospace to finance, entertainment, energy, basic manufacturing and homebuilding. Yet, during the most recent boom, the growth of high-wage job growth largely took place in one region — the Bay Area — while other sectors generally stagnated or shrank. . . . Perhaps most damaging of all, the allure of the tech boom has been used to justify Sacramento’s crushing regulatory and tax regime. The state’s strong performance since 2010 has convinced many in the political class and the media that business climate does not matter. It has made apologists able to ignore some 10,000 businesses that have left or expanded outside of the state, many of them employing middle- and working-class people. High-tech and entertainment are great industries to have, even at slower growth rates, but they cannot long carry such a diverse state with the highest poverty rate in the country and severe affordability challenges. California has been largely lulled to sleep by a now fading boom. We could experience a very rude awakening that will cause havoc to the state budget, produce a potential housing correction and challenge communities across the state.
For the second year in a row, the number of babies delivered in the U.S. fell in 2016, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics. For some groups of women, the birth rate reached record lows.