Orange County, popularly portrayed as young and white, will grow significantly older and more Latino over the next four-plus decades, according to population projections released Thursday.
The figures, generated by the California Department of Finance to plan for future needs, depict a region whose years of heady growth are long behind it. While the neighboring counties of Los Angeles and Riverside are projected to add nearly 2 million residents each by 2060, Orange County is forecast to add only about 300,000.
In a state that's expected to grow by more than 15 million people over that time, Orange County would contribute only 2 percent to that growth.
State demographers predict Orange County will lose residents in every age group except those 65 or older. Meanwhile, Latinos are expected to surpass non-Latino whites as the county's largest group by 2027.
The two trends would necessitate striking shifts in county politics and public policy.
Statewide, Latinos are projected to become California's largest ethnic group much sooner -- by early next year.
Overall, the state's Latino population is expected to grow 80 percent from 2010 to 2060. California's 65-plus population is expected to grow 190 percent over that period, although, unlike Orange County, the state overall is projected to have moderate growth among other age groups as well.
"O.C. is a little bit like high-tech, dynamic areas with a little bit of Florida Sunbelt thrown in," said Frank D. Bean, director of the Center for Research on Immigration, Population and Public Policy at UC Irvine.
Orange County has nice weather, which attracts affluent retirees. It's an expensive place to live, which drives young people away. The net effect is a graying of the population, Bean said.
In addition, places like Orange County have tended to attract lower-wage workers for service or construction jobs, which helps explain the influx of Latinos over the past several years, Bean said. But he warned that the Latino population may not continue to grow as projected because of changes in the economy and in the birth-rate.
"Projections just take what happened and extrapolate," Bean said. The real world evolves.
During the housing boom, Bean said, Orange County was attracting Latino workers to build homes. Obviously, that work has declined. At the same time, fertility rates among Latinos have been dropping, Bean said. The recent growth in California's Latino population won't continue at the same rate over the next 15 years, he said.
Bill Schooling, chief of Demographic Research for the Department of Finance, said the state's projections do take into account declining Latino fertility rates as well as other changes. The projections, he said, are not simple extrapolations. But even so, "Absolutely, you have to take them with a grain of salt," Schooling said.
"That's why we end up doing them every few years," he said, "because you learn something changes."
But while the specifics may be in doubt, state Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, said the projections illustrate general trends that the state and county must address.
A growing senior population paired with a shrinking workforce means the county will face a future where more residents need more services, but there will be fewer people available to provide them. Pension systems and health plans that depend on middle-age workers may struggle. The need for medical services will rise. Young families looking for homes will leave the county.
"Who is going to be paying into the pension fund?" Correa asked. "I think it should be a concern for Orange County," he said.
Politically, Correa said, the growing Latino population is going to require the parties to be more responsive to its voters -- a process that has begun in earnest for the Republicans following their dismal returns among Latinos in the 2012 presidential election.
For the time being, the senator said, Democrats appear to have the upper hand in appealing to Latinos. But more and more, Correa said he's hearing Latinos complain about the record high rates of deportations under President Barack Obama. The Democrats' advantage could disappear. The real world evolves.
Most Popular Stories
- National Retail Federation Reduces Sales Forecast
- Desktop, Laptop Setups Still King
- Execs Help Entrepreneurs, Get Chevy Volts
- Demand for Fair Trade Brings Big Opportunity, Clear Conscience
- Shania Twain's Vegas residency ending after 110 shows
- Zillow in Reported $2B Bid for Real Estate Rival Trulia
- Google Confirms $1B Acquisition of Twitch.tv
- Sporty Ford Fiesta Fires on All 3 Cylinders
- Honda' s Accord Plug-in Hybrid Is a Fuel Miser
- Amazon Hiring on Calif.'s Central Coast