July 9, 2007 / 9:50 PM / 10 years ago

California's population to hit 60 million by 2050

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The number of people in California, already the most populous U.S. state, will rise to 60 million by 2050 from 36 million now, and Hispanics will be in the majority by 2042, a state report released on Monday forecast.

By the middle of the century, Hispanics will comprise 52 percent of the Golden State’s people, with whites comprising 26 percent. Asians will account for 13 percent, blacks 5 percent and multiracial residents 2 percent, the report said.

California’s population boom will put increased strains on already overstretched public works and natural resources.

Highways are famously clogged, power systems are overtaxed in hot weather and adequate water supplies are a persistent concern as towns grow into cities amid urban sprawl. The overcrowded prison system is being forced to move inmates to facilities in other states.

“You wonder at some point how much the infrastructure can handle,” said Mayor Jerry Sanders of San Diego, California’s second-largest city.

“What I think it means is that in California we’re going to have to become vertical cities instead of horizontal cities, which is something we have just started addressing.”

Southern California will show the highest rates of growth. Los Angeles County will increase by 3.5 million people by 2050 while neighboring Riverside County to the east will follow closely, adding almost 3.2 million people.

“Los Angeles will continue to be California’s largest county, topping 13 million by mid-century. With 4.7 million people, Riverside County is expected to be the second largest county at that time,” according to the report by California’s Department of Finance.

The report predicts inland counties will add people at a faster pace than coastal counties, a pattern that has been under way for several years.

California’s projected growth and demographic shift will also challenge its public schools to educate workers for an increasingly competitive economy, said economist Christopher Thornberg of Los Angeles-based Beacon Economics.

“We live in a society where having skills, having an education, is incredibly important but we’re failing to provide students with an education,” Thornberg said.

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