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Part of the loss in population of 20 and 30 year olds is due to the in-between cycle of post-baby boom population. Sometimes called “echo-boomers,” there is a gap between the ages when baby boomers started having children of their own. However, further examination of San Diego’s population by race/ethnicity and age groups reveals interesting trends in local demographics impacting local housing and the economy.

Since 2000, San Diego’s annual population growth slowed from nearly 60,000 per year, to 26,000 the past two years. Depending upon the source of population estimates (See reports on “Varying Estimates of San Diego Population,” here and here) since 2003 more San Diego residents moved away than to the County. This would normally put a huge damper on home sales and rising prices, yet home prices escalated in 2003, 2004, and 2005, before substantially slowing in 2006 and dipping in 2007.

San Diego’s overall population continues to increase, despite the loss of resident’s moving away, because enough babies are still being born, and international migration to San Diego continues unabated. (This presumes only legal immigration, as illegal or “undocumented” is not documented and therefore not counted.) The changes in population growth are having a significant impact on local demographic make-up.

The following chart illustrates San Diego’s current population by Census Bureau defined race/ethnicity and age groups.

San Diego’s white population, which just barely remains a majority (51.4 percent) of total population, according to San Diego Association of Governments projections, is much older than other groups. The median age of the white population is 41.2, with the largest number 45 to 49 years old. This is significantly older than the Hispanic population, the second largest ethnic group with a median age of 26.6, and single largest age group under 5 years old. One in three Hispanic residents are under 18 years old, while only one in five white residents are.

Most of San Diego’s recent population growth is of Hispanic/Latino ancestry, both from international migration and natural increase from babies born to both residents and new immigrants.

Asian and Pacific Islander residents are also younger with median age of 35.3, but more closely resemble the white population in age distribution from young to older ages. Black residents (median age 30.5) are also younger than the white population, but slightly more children and fewer older age groups. American Indian residents of San Diego are relatively small in number, but their presence much more noticeable with the rise of Indian-gaming in the County.

The newly self-defined “other” population, including those of “mixed” race and ethnic ancestry, is highly skewed toward younger ages, with median age of only 22.3. This may largely be a statistical aberration from more inter-racial couples having children and younger people more willing to identify themselves of mixed heritage than older populations.

San Diego’s mix of population groups has significance on the labor supply and housing market. Education in San Diego is on the front line adjusting to these ethnic and racial changes, particularly dealing with the impact of students who’s primary language is not English. Statistically, the highest drop-out rate of students not completing high school are Hispanic and black students. They are therefore entering the labor force with lower skills at the same time qualifications to work for San Diego employers are increasingly demanding.

The increasing number of unskilled laborers are the ones most ill-equipped to afford San Diego’s high housing costs. Indeed, analysis of San Diego’s housing markets find foreclosures hitting Latino neighborhoods hardest. (See this report )

San Diego’s housing market is awash in less skilled workers in the labor force, while homeowners are older and increasingly leaving the workforce. Another trend not greatly encouraging for solving the housing affordability crisis and continuing long term economic health in the region.

Obviously, education is of paramount importance to the rising generation of workers. And an affordable supply of housing is essential for San Diego’s continued economic prosperity.

— KELLY CUNNINGHAM

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