When it comes to population growth, Marin continues to be among the slowest-growing counties in the state while participating in a statewide trend toward lower birth rates.
Marin’s population increased by 1,152 people, or 0.4 percent, between July 1, 2015, and July 1, 2016, according to state Department of Finance statistics released last week. Thirty-three of California’s 58 counties grew at a faster rate. Yolo County led the field with a 1.97 percent growth rate, and the state as a whole grew at a 0.75 percent rate, to more than 39 million people.
The report also showed that California’s birth rate dipped to an historic low in 2015-16, a trend demographers say is driven largely by millennials putting off parenthood to finish college and launch careers.
The state’s birth rate declined to 12.42 births per 1,000 population in 2016 — the lowest in California history, according to the report. In 2010, the last time figures were compiled, the birth rate was 13.69 per 1,000 population.
“There are a lot of people who could be having children but are choosing to do something else,” said Walter Schwarm, a demographer with the Department of Finance. “People want to establish careers. They’re looking to pursue degrees, they’re getting out there and finding their place in employment.”
But as young people opt to start families between ages 30 to 34, they find it’s “harder and harder to conceive,” according to Schwarm.
The fact that people are having fewer children may also be an indication that “the economy is not as strong as we hoped it would be,” said Professor Josh Goldstein, chairman of the University of California at Berkeley’s Department of Demography.
“It’s clear that fertility rates went down when the economy got worse,” Goldstein said. “Demographers are still noticing that birth rates have not picked up as the economic measures have improved.”
The number of births in Marin has declined since the onset of the Great Recession in 2009; births at Marin General Hospital declined from 1,627 in 2008 to 1,322 in 2015.
The state’s death rate also increased slightly in 2015-16 to 6.71 deaths per 1,000 population, compared with 6.26 in 2010 as members of the baby-boom generation grow older.
There were 2,286 births in Marin in 2015-16 compared with 2,016 deaths for a net increase of 270 residents. The bulk of the county’s population increase came from 726 foreign immigrants, while 156 people migrated to Marin from other states.
Marin’s 0.4 percent growth rate, the same as in 2014-15, is its slowest in the past six years. Marin population grew by 0.5 percent in 2011-12, 0.9 percent in 2010-11, 1 percent in 2013-14 and 1.1 percent in 2012-13.
Population growth projections became a hotly debated subject in 2013 when Plan Bay Area — a long-range transportation and land-use/housing blueprint for the nine-county Bay Area — was adopted. Critics of the plan challenged the plan’s projection that Marin would gain some 33,000 new residents by 2040. They pointed to a Department of Finance projection that Marin’s population would grow by just 6,818 residents by 2040.
If Marin were to add the same number of new residents as it did in 2015-16 over the next 24 years, by 2040 it would have added 27,648 new residents.
The new population data doesn’t break out population by municipality. But previously released numbers covering population growth from Jan. 1, 2015, to Jan. 1, 2016, showed Novato leading the way in Marin with 458 new residents, a 0.8 percent growth rate, for a total population of 54,749.
Marin’s most populous city, San Rafael, grew at a 0.1 percent rate, adding 75 residents for a total population of 60,582. Larkspur had Marin’s second-fastest growth rate, 0.6 percent, adding 74 residents for a total population of 12,445. Fairfax, the only Marin municipality to contract, lost seven residents during the period.
The Bay Area News Group contributed to this report.
Births at Marin General Hospital, 2002 to 2015
Source: Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development