Updated population numbers were released Tuesday showing the state of California still losing residents in 2023, but San Francisco throws a wrinkle in the doom loop narrative by gaining residents at the fourth-highest rate of any California county.
It got a ton of attention that people moved out of San Francisco during the pandemic, whether that out-migration was measured by U-Haul data or U.S. Census data. And the broader state of California also lost many residents, as people with pandemic-era remote work jobs could just do their work from some Airbnb in Montana or something.
But these numbers have a way of being revised, and a lot of people just plain moved back once things kind of normalized. The current estimate of the San Francisco population has just been revised upward thanks to both of these factors, as the Chronicle reports that San Francisco’s population has grown the last two years, though the state of California is still experiencing population loss.
That’s according to numbers released Tuesday by the California Department of Finance, and somewhat awkwardly, like the U.S. Census, they measure years from July-to-July, rather than January-to-January. Either way, their revised figures say that between July 2021 and 2022, SF’s population actually grew by 1,400 people, as opposed to that department’s previous estimate that we had thought we had lost 4,400 residents during that period. Then from July 2022 to July 2023 we gained 4,900 residents. That is not enormous growth for a city of about 850,000 people (just 0.6% growth in the latest year), but it puts us in California's top four counties in terms of population growth for that period.
Granted, SF still has about 22,000 fewer residents than pre-pandemic, so there has been population loss. But SF is certainly doing better than the state of California as a whole, which is still losing population.
The U.S. Census Bureau also released revised population numbers Tuesday, and the Bay Area News Group reports that data showed California lost more than 75,000 residents in that July-to-July year (leaving us with about 39 million residents, still the most populous state in the nation by far).
“But the so-called California exodus is slowing,” as the News Group explains. “The drop is less than the 0.3% annual decline in 2022 from 2021, and the 0.9% yearly drop in 2021 from 2020, when 39,503,200 called the Golden State home.”
Nationwide, the entire U.S. population grew very slightly by 1.6 million people in 2023, or 0.5%. (So SF is beating the whole country of America at population growth!) While meager from a percentage standpoint, that’s much more robust than the previous two years, and the uptick is almost certainly because fewer are dying from COVID-19.
The revisions to the California data are based on updated information from address changes, birth certificates and death certificates, driver’s licenses, tax returns, and school enrollment figures.
Image: Cedric Letsch via Unsplash