Less Immigrants in Los Angeles Prompts Worry for Region's Future

PHOTO: The majority of residents in Los Angeles County will be native Californians by the end of the year.

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP

By the end of the year, the majority of residents in Los Angeles County will be native Californians for the first time in recorded history, according to a recent report. And the share of residents who are native Californians is expected to increase to nearly two-thirds by 2030.

The report, released by University of Southern California's Population and Dynamics Research Group, shows a reversal of the long-running influx of immigrants into the city.

The total share of immigrants – especially Latino – in Los Angeles rose dramatically for decades before it peaked in 2000 at 36.2 percent. Now, however, it has stabilized and is projected to stay the same or even decrease slightly through 2030.

"It's an extraordinary moment in Los Angeles history--everything we know about L.A. will change," said report co-author Dowell Myers in a statement.

At the same time, the number of children with foreign-born parents remains high. Though just under 5 percent of children are foreign-born, 60 percent have immigrant parents. This second generation accounts for 21.5 percent of the population.

That means native Californians are—and will continue to be--an ethnically and racially diverse lot. By 2030, 60 percent or more of native Californians will be Latino, for instance, and the number of Asian residents is growing at a rate similar to Latinos. The share of blacks and whites, on the other hand, continues to fall.

Chapman University urban theorist Joel Kotkin – on a panel that discussed the recent findings – said the decline in the number of immigrants is connected to the suffering local economy, which has been stagnant for about a decade. That decline, he believes, will undoubtedly have ramifications for the city.

"You can go back to Athens, Baghdad, London, Berlin in 1900, New York in the early part of the century and L.A. more recently, they were made and recreated from someplace else," Kotkin said. "When you lose that and in such a dramatic way, I think it's going to have some effect on the dynamism."

Researchers also found that – as with immigrants – fewer people from other U.S. states are drawn to California, prompting concerns that the Golden State will be unable to meet its needs in the future for labor.

At the panel, Sociologist Richard Mora said that immigrants are a significant part of what makes Los Angeles the city it is. They're a part of its DNA.

"I'm not even sure what L.A. would look like without the immigrants. If you think about what defines L.A. and what people define as their definition of the L.A. experience, for many people it involves something that comes out of an ethnic community," he said.

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