The recent news from the state’s Finance Department about our population growth seemed reassuring enough.

city of Los Angeles added an estimated 44,000 residents last year,
bringing the population on Jan. 1 to almost 4,095,000, the department
said April 29.

Likewise, California gained residents, pushing the total population to an estimated 38.6 million.

are the numbers that were widely reported. And the news stories were
reassuring because population growth is important. The fact that the
city and state attracted more residents implies jobs are being created
and the economy is growing. It means they must be doing something right
to lure people.

But wait. Not so fast. If you look at the components of growth, you may not be quite so reassured.

That’s because, to put it bluntly, foreign immigrants are moving in. American-born residents are moving out.

to U.S. Census Bureau data, for the 12-month period that ended July 1,
58,500 more foreign-born people moved in to Los Angeles County than
moved out. At the same time, 76,600 more American-born residents moved
out than moved in.

on, you might say. If you look at those numbers, you see that more
people moved out than moved in, so wouldn’t there be a decrease in
population? Well, yes, except for what the Census calls the natural
increase; that results when there are more births than deaths. Add that
number in, and Los Angeles County had an increase in population, bottom

other words, L.A.’s population in that 12-month period grew only
because foreign immigration and the natural increase overwhelmed the
number of American-born people driving out in their U-Hauls.

since that was just one 12-month period, you might wonder if that was
an aberration. I looked it up, and, I’m sorry to report, the same is
true for the much longer period of 2000 through mid-2009: A net of 1.13
million American-born Angelenos moved out while a net of 651,000
foreign immigrants moved in.

Ditto for the entire state, although the numbers are less dramatic.

this means that Los Angeles and the state, while still quite attractive
to foreigners, is seeing its American-born residents slowly drain away.
And that’s a trend that’s been going on for years. That’s not

trend raises a number of questions. How many of the immigrants are the
kind of highly skilled, highly motivated people on whom a future
economy can be based?

about those who are leaving? How many of them are college educated or
entrepreneurial? And what can the city or the state do to try to keep

A more pointed question: Do they even want to try?

trend implies – shouts, really – that fewer American-born people now
see California as the land of opportunity. And the trend is, of course,
a reversal from past decades, a time when the most ambitious and
motivated of Americans packed up and drove on Route 66 to Los Angeles,
where they hoped to live their dreams.

Alas, for many American-born, California dreamin’ has become California leavin’.