Is Orange County Losing Population?

Orange County, California, the coastal county south of Los Angeles, home to Anaheim and Disneyland, has seen a decline in population of nearly 10,000 people. This decrease is smaller than the previous 12-month period due to an increase in international migration. These long-term trends are why the state is pushing cities and counties to create more affordable housing, particularly in higher-priced markets such as Los Angeles and Orange Counties. The California Department of Finance predicts that Los Angeles and Orange counties will continue to grow until the mid-to-late 2030s, and then gradually shrink in the following years.

Although some of those who moved may have stayed close by, as the census shows that the population of Inland Empire counties either grew or remained stable, the flight from Los Angeles during the pandemic era and a smaller decline in Orange County caused a contraction of 1.4% in the combined population of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, bringing it down to just over 17.5 million. These trends—and recent figures showing that counties with higher prices are shrinking while those with lower prices are increasing—suggest that a large part of the exodus has to do with money; specifically, with housing costs. The state projects that Riverside and San Bernardino counties will continue to grow at an accelerated rate at least until the middle of the century, and Riverside County will likely eventually be nearly as large as Orange County.