Monday, February 4, 2013

New County Population Forecasts: Is San Joaquin County growth set to lift off in 2015?

The California Department of Finance released long-term population forecasts at the county level last week.  Their last county level forecasts were issued in 2007.

Overall, their forecast is for significantly slower growth for California, less than 1% annual population growth over the next 50 years.  Their forecast ends in 2060 with a statewide population of 52.7 million and annual population growth falling to below 0.5% and trending down.  If you extrapolate from there, it is unlikely that California sees 60 million in population before 2100.

Despite the slow growth for California, they still predict rapid population growth in the Valley - especially for Kern and San Joaquin County.

In fact, they have San Joaquin County growth accelerating over 2% per year as soon as 2015 and sustaining over 2% growth through 2035.  That is significantly faster than our forecast for San Joaquin County.  According to DOF, San Joaquin County will break 1 million residents by 2030; 75,000 people more than our projection for the same year.  If you use 3 people per house as a simple rule of thumb; that is 25,000 more homes that would be built in the County over the next 20 years than we project - and that is just one of the economic impacts.

While DOF has faster growth than us in some areas, it has slower growth in others, especially in the Bay Areas but also some inland areas such as the Sacramento area.  I am surprised DOF doesn't see faster growth for Sacramento.  For example, DOF is not projecting Placer County growth to increase substantially from the pace of recent years, remaining barely over one percent for the foreseeable future.  I have a hard time seeing San Joaquin County growing twice as fast as Placer County over the next twenty years; as Placer County has often been the state's fastest growing county of late.  I still see a lot of room to develop around Roseville, Rocklin and Lincoln.


  1. Has anyone done any retrospective looks at how skillful these sorts of regional population forecasts are? I use them periodically in my journalism, and have never thought through the question of their reliability.

  2. Great question John. It would be interesting to understand their assumptions especially when we are not educating the population for the future economy.

  3. Demographic forecasting is tricky, especially estimating future levels of inter-regional migration.

    Obviously, they are predicting very strong in-migration from SoCal and the Bay Area into Kern and San Joaquin. In fact, they even put Kern County into the Southern California region in this report.

    While I have no doubt there will increased in-migration compared to recent years in both counties, we don't think it will grow quite as much as DOF does. DOF could be right, the home price difference between the Bay Area and San Joaquin County is higher than ever - and there is some evidence that interest from Bay Area Tranplants (BATs) is picking up again. The second half of this decade 2015-2020 is going to be really interesting from a housing and regional migration perspective.

    The most surprising to me is how pessimistic DOF is about Sacramento area growth.

  4. John,

    In response to your question, historically DOF population forecasts have been too aggressive, that is they have erred on the high side.

    That to me is what makes this release pretty newsworthy. The downward adjustment at the state level is large, more than I anticipated. I don't think too many people will criticize this forecast for being too high, and that is a change for DOF.

    While overall I think this is a decent forecast, I still think it may err a little on the high side for the San Joaquin Valley, and err on the low side for Sacramento and some of the coastal areas.