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This California City Lost the Most Residents Last Year—And No, It’s Not San Francisco

Written by Noah BaustinPublished May 01, 2023 • 2:44pm
U-Haul moving truck | Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images.

The news that California’s fastest-growing major city is a new enclave near Riverside and that the torrent of people leaving San Francisco has slowed to a trickle are two findings in the first look at 2023 population data from the California Department of Finance.

The state’s population dropped by about 138,000 people between Jan. 1, 2022 and Jan. 1, 2023, a 0.4% decrease, the data shows. That placed California’s population at 38.9 million. And while the Golden State’s population has continued to shrink, the rate of decline has slowed since the early days of the pandemic: From April 2020 to January 2021, the state’s population deflated by nearly 252,000 people.

California’s foreign immigration nearly tripled in 2022 compared to 2021, bringing in a net of more than 90,000 people, almost back to pre-pandemic immigration levels. But those gains were offset by continued domestic out-migration in 2022, likely due to the rise of working from home, the finance department said. 

Most California counties’ population shrank in 2022, including every county on the state’s coastline. Pockets of the Central Valley and Inland Empire proved to be the exception, with the number of residents climbing in those regions.

Yuba and Madera counties both grew by about 0.6% between January 2022 and 2023, the largest rate in the state. But that accounted for an increase of fewer than 1,000 people in the sparsely populated rural counties. In contrast, Riverside County’s population ballooned the most, expanding by nearly 8,300 people. 

Meanwhile, Los Angeles County shrank by over 73,000 people, the largest drop in California, though that loss represented just a 0.7% decrease to the state’s most populous county.

Menifee—located about 30 miles southeast of Riverside in the Inland Empire—grew by more than 2,600 people in 2022, a 2.4% population expansion. That made it the fastest-growing city in California with a population of at least 100,000. Remarkably, the city is technically less than 20 years old—it was incorporated in 2008.

Meanwhile, eight of the top 10 major cities with the largest population declines were in the greater Los Angeles area.  

Being home to Disneyland, the "Happiest Place on Earth," was not enough to keep people in Anaheim. The city lost more than 7,300 residents last year, a drop of 2.2%, ranking it as the major California city with the largest population drop.

That’s a dramatic reversal from 2021 when San Francisco experienced one of the largest population declines in the country. In 2022, San Francisco’s population shrank by a relatively modest 5,300 people—only a 0.6% decrease—placing it close to the middle of the pack among the ranking of population growth in California cities.

After years of young people leaving the City by the Bay, a recent LinkedIn study indicated that San Francisco may have reversed course. The city had one of the nation’s largest net in-migrations in March 2023, among professionally minded users of that site, at least.

Noah Baustin can be reached at

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