An unprecedented drop in California's child population coupled with a growing wave of Baby Boomer retirements has major implications for the state and should drive lawmakers to adopt policies that will nurture young people with improved educational opportunities and healthcare, according to a report released Tuesday.
An analysis of census data shows that children will make up 21 percent of the state's population by 2030, down sharply from 33 percent in 1970, according to the report by USC's Price School of Public Policy and the Lucille Packard Foundation for Children's Health.
Several factors are behind California's shrinking child population, including declining birth rates, fewer newcomers coming to the state and a smaller number of women of childbearing age, said Dowell Myers, professor of policy and demography and director of USC's Population Dynamics Research Group.
"These trends are not yet widely recognized, but they should be a wake- up call for policymakers," Myers said. "We will be increasingly dependent economically and socially on a smaller number of children. They are more important to the state's future success than ever before."
Birth rates have declined in all major racial and ethnic groups in California since 2000 and are below the replacement level of 2.1 births per woman, according to the report.
Additionally, more than 20 percent of the state's children live in households that are below the federal poverty level, and poverty rates are twice as high for California's children as they are for adults, the study found.
Another key trend noted in the report involves the number of children born and raised in California compared to those from out of state.
More than 90 percent of the state's children under 10 are home grown, a reversal from previous decades, which will force the state to rely more heavily on the abilities of its native-born children, according to a statement accompanying the study.
"The majority of the next generation of workers will have been shaped by California's health and education systems," Myers said. "It's essential that we nurture our human capital."
The study found that California will have 36 seniors per 100 working adults by 2030, as compared to the 21 seniors per 100 working adults the state has averaged since 1970. Additionally, it found that nearly half of school-age children are being raised in households where English is not the primary language, and they may need tailored social, health and educational services in the short term so that potential benefits of their bilingual abilities can be realized.
"All of these findings make a compelling argument that our policies and programs increasingly must support the health, education and well being of the state's children, said Dr. David Alexander, president and CEO of the Lucille Packard Foundation for Children's Health, which funded the study.
"In particular, we must address the growing rates of child poverty and the persistent child health disparities found in ethnic and racial groups."
The full report is available at www.kidsdata.org/childpop.