California is an awesome state with natural wonders and great weather, plus an enduring left-leaning political ideology that touts compassion to the disenfranchised. So why are more people leaving than coming to live here?

In a Jan. 3 CALmatters report, California’s population growth has been on the decline for decades, but recent estimates show practical stagnation:
Growth began to slow in the late 1990s and has been decelerating ever since. Immigration has slowed to a trickle, and California now loses more people to other states than it gains. Birthrates have declined sharply and as the first baby boom generation ages, the state’s death rate is increasing. Annual growth rates are dropping, from 0.9 percent in 2010-11 to just 0.4 percent in 2017-18, according to the Census Bureau.

That growth status is on par with population trends in Ventura County. According to the 2018 economic forecast by California Lutheran University Center for Economic Research and Forecasting:

Ventura County’s population growth rate in 2017 was 0.29 percent, a number higher than the previous year but still almost indistinguishable from zero. Only two times over the history for which we have data has the county’s population growth been slower. The county currently exhibits negative net domestic migration. Young adults who are starting careers and families are often selecting to move out of the county.

In our feature this week, “Where did the kids go?”, at least five years of declining school enrollment numbers countywide don’t lie — though theories abound as to why, ranging from immigration status issues to migration to other states due to the cost of living.

The repercussions of stagnant population growth are exponential. They include smaller school budgets as state funding comes per student, private employers become limited with recruiting and retaining skilled workers, downward economic trends with decreasing customers and fewer taxpayers, more senior citizens who need more services and consume less while younger spenders dwindle. Further, if families don’t want or can’t afford to stay in California, a burgeoning nationwide issue of the middle class squeeze, what will be left of California and Ventura County if these negative trends don’t ease?

Until California and Ventura County get a true grip on the cost of living and lack of opportunity issues, those who remain will be the ones who can easily afford to stay and those immobilized by poverty. Those in between will have left for a better life elsewhere.

The question at large: What can we do as a community with lawmakers at our behest to make Ventura County and California an attractive place to live for all income ranges? Send your suggestions to editor@vcreporter.com.