California, for decades a symbol of boundless growth and opportunity that attracted people from across the country and abroad, has seen its population growth stall and is losing a U.S. House seat for the first time in its 170-year history.
Census Bureau population data released today is used to determine how the nation’s 435 House seats are allocated.
California remains the most populous by far with nearly 39.58 million people but it is growing more slowly than other states and will see its House delegation drop from 53 to 52.
Arizona will keep nine congressional districts, as it’s had for the past decade.
This marks the first time in 70 years that Arizona will not gain a new congressional seat.
Arizona had one House seat from statehood in 1912 through the 1930s, gaining a second seat from the 1940 census.
It didn’t gain a seat from the 1950 census, but got a third district from the 1960 census and gained one new seat in every subsequent census through 2010, except the 2000 census, which gave Arizona two new seats.
The news stunned Arizona’s political community, where it had been widely assumed that the state would have 10 congressional seats for the next decade.
Arizona’s population jumped from about 6.4 million in the 2010 census to 7,158,923 in 2020, according to apportionment data from the Census Bureau.
Six states will gain extra seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Texas will gain two, while Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon will each gain one seat.
California’s population grew by about 2.3 million people since the 2010 Census but has been nearly flat since 2017.
“It’s certainly a remarkable result given the broader history of the state, which has been just almost relentless population growth,” said Eric McGhee, a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California who studies political redistricting. “The state has just been booming almost since Day One, so to have it be slowing down this much is really historically unprecedented.”
That means influence will shift to faster-growing states such as Florida and Texas, where business-friendly policies and lower costs of living have fueled high-octane growth over the past decade.
Texas politicians have long sought to woo California residents and businesses.
During the pandemic, companies like Oracle and Hewlett Packard Enterprise announced plans to relocate headquarters to from California to Texas.
“There will be gloating — political gloating — I can guarantee it,” said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a professor of public policy communication at the University of Southern California.
California’s loss of a House seat also means a possible dip in federal funding for Medi-Cal, the health insurance program for low-income people, as well as less money for highways, schools and a wide array of social services that are based on population.
The number of seats in Congress is fixed at 435 and the Census Bureau uses a population-based formula to decide how many seats each state gets.
That means if one state loses, another one gains.
More U.S. residents moving out of California than into the state is just one factor driving California’s slower growth, though demographers say more data is needed to understand who has left and why in recent years.
In fact, California has lost more residents to other states than it’s gained for all but three of the past roughly 30 years, McGhee said.
Those losses typically are offset by international immigration into the state, something that’s slowed in recent years, he said. Births also are declining while deaths are increasing, a phenomenon across the U.S. that’s slightly faster in California.
Just because California’s growth has slowed doesn’t mean the state is in decline.
“California tends to go through boom and bust cycles,” said Beth Jarosz, a senior research associate at the Population Reference Bureau.
The growth in recent years has been historically low. Since the last census, California’s population grew 6.1%, which ranked 24th nationally.
Bob Shrum, director of University of Southern California’s Dornsife Center for the Political Future, said he expects the overall impact of the loss of a congressional seat to be marginal, even on federal funding.
That’s because California will still have far more seats than any other state.
The other states that are losing seats include Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
The states will each lose one seat.