Los Angeles County, where I was born in the mid-1940s, reached an ominous milestone last July. Recently released Census Bureau data show that in 2013 LA County’s population inched over 10 million, nearly twice the total of second place Cook County, Ill. with its 5.3 million people.
In 1940, LA’s population was a hard-to-believe-it-was-so low 7 million. Back then, residents had the roads and the beaches to themselves. There was no such thing as overcrowded schools, backed up emergency rooms or long waits at the DMV. Now those common headaches are part of the daily LA grind. As one friend told me, when he’s doing 30 miles per hour on I-405, he’s happy. INRIX, a non-profit that studies traffic patterns, reported that road congestion is outpacing economic growth by a 3-1 margin. Predictably, California’s traffic is the worst; last year motorists lost 64 hours stalled in frustrating tie ups.
Just a few decades ago, even for average Californians, the state was paradise. A $150 a week salary could buy a modest home in a safe, working class neighborhood. The long forgotten Sunday family drive along the coast or through the San Fernando Valley highlighted the week.
Los Angeles’ overpopulation is a crucially important subject with statewide ramifications. To make progress in first slowing the growth, and then reducing it to manageable levels, overpopulation has to be dealt with honestly, the importance of which appears beyond either Sacramento or the media’s understanding.
The continuing population surge is most frequently attributed to an increase in net international migration, a deceptive descriptor. Officially, between 2012 and 2013, Los Angeles County had the highest total immigration influx 39,000 compared to Florida’s Miami-Dade County’s 32,000 and Queen’s Country New York 24,000.
To be sure, some come to Los Angeles with valid visas and through a port of entry. But too many arrive illegally. The Census Bureau’s Quick Facts summary offers important insights into what’s really going on in LA County. In a nutshell, foreign-born persons make up 35 percent of county residents. Among those older than five, 58 percent speak a language other than English at home. Hispanics represent 48 percent of the total county populace.
Digging deeper, only 76 percent over age-25 have a high school degree and a mere 29 percent have earned a university diploma. All of these statistics rolled together foreshadow a rough future for Angelenos. Limited English speakers without a college diploma will face near-insurmountable challenges.
Illegal immigrants’ presence already represents a financial drain. Last year, county supervisor Michael Antonovich, citing statistics from the Department of Public Social Services, announced that about 100,000 children born to 60,000 illegal immigrants receive $650 million in welfare benefits. When more than $1 billion in costs for public safety and health care are added, illegal immigrants receive more than $1.5 billion from LA County, money that should go to needy citizens and legal immigrants.
An analysis of Census Bureau data found that nearly 100 percent of California’s growth between 2000 through 2010 resulted from immigration and births to immigrants. The numbers of children a family has can’t be legislated. But a sensible federal immigration policy that secures the border as well as the interior and reduces legal immigration must be written, passed and enforced. Until it is, California will continue to experience crushing growth that’s bad for everyone.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1987. Contact him at [email protected]