Orange County Population Growth Chart

By Keegan Kyle / Staff Writer
March 27, 2015 – Updated 9:47 p.m.

Orange County’s population growth is little more than a trickle these days, according to figures released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Throughout most of the 1970s and ’80s, the ethnically diverse mass of people calling Orange County home ballooned by more than 2 percent annually. In 1975, more than 56,000 people were added, by birth or moving here – a 3.4 percent bump from the previous year.

But last year, population grew by just 23,600, less than 1 percent – the sixth-slowest rate in the past half-century of census data. The only years with less growth preceded the national economic recession.

The primary reasons, in Census Bureau parlance, are domestic migration patterns and deaths. In plain English, more people are leaving Orange County for other parts of the U.S. than are coming to live here. And our increasingly elder population is dying off faster than babies are being born.

Though the net change in migrants from other countries grew by 29 percent in 2014 from the previous year, much of that growth was wiped out by a domestic exodus. About 8,000 more residents left Orange County than new ones arrived here.

Home prices to blame

Urban planning and real estate experts said rising home prices may be partially to blame. Orange and Los Angeles counties both lost residents to domestic migration, while Riverside County, with cheaper housing options, continued rapid growth in 2014.

Orange County home prices have continued a steady climb in recent months, according to CoreLogic DataQuick figures, nearly reaching prerecession levels. In February, the median home price was about $571,000 in Orange County, compared with $305,000 in Riverside County.

“Even though there’s more construction, we still hear the issue of housing prices,” said Deborah Diep, director of the Center for Demographic Research at Cal State Fullerton. “It’s been a huge ongoing issue, not just for Orange County but for the whole Southern California region.”

The new data don’t spell out exactly where Orange County residents are moving and why they’re moving. More detailed data won’t be released until later this year.

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