The Diverse iKids of CA

 A significant change is taking place in California that signals a remarkable shift in its population. In times past, California’s population growth came from outside the state. After WWII, huge numbers of people drove west on Highway 66 from Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, and other mid-western states to move to the golden state. “California here I come”, was a popular line for a song extolling the benefits of its weather, jobs, and an opportunity to reinvent yourself.

Starting in the 1980s a new wave of people arrived from outside the state, this time from countries like Mexico, China, the Philippines, Tonga, and El Salvador. These first generation immigrants brought with them their rich cultures, foods, traditions, and languages that have transformed California into a creative tapestry that makes it a hub of innovation, diversity, and change.

But since 2000, the inflow of new residents has plateaued. This is most clearly seen in the population of its youngest generation. Since 2000 of 90% of the iKids Generation, those born since 2000, were born in California. Dowell Myers, in a USC Price report on “California’s Diminishing Resource: Children,” says, “Almost all CA children are born and raised in the state, unlike in past decades when many migrated from other states or nations. As these children grow into adulthood, they are beginning to remake the state. The historic transition to a “homegrown” majority is so recent, that its significance is not yet appreciated.”

While over 29% of California iKids have a least one parent who was born outside the United States, over 90% of them are Second Generation Americans. When looking at ethnicity some surprising information emerges. 91% of Whites, 94% of Blacks, 95% of Latinos, and 85% of Asians and Pacific Islanders iKids were born in California.

What does this mean for the future?

  1. In the past California’s growth was based on the inflow of new people from outside the state. Now is growth will be determined by the success of its own homegrown children. Economic success in the future will be based on how well California educates, trains, and equips its own children.
  2. While 52% are of Latino descent and 11% are of Asian descent, these Second Generation Americans see the world much differently from their parent’s generation. Churches, businesses, and educational institutions should realize the young Latinos and Asians of California are different than their parents. For most of them their primary language is English, they resonate with the American popular culture, and they share an American worldview.
  3. Because there are less people coming from outside the state, the percentage of children to the overall population is going down. This will be most clearly seen in the coming decades as the older adult population will skyrocket. In 2010 there were 22 senior adults per 100 people age 25 to 64. By 2050, when this generation will be in their prime earning years, there will be 46 older adults over 65 per 100 people who are 25 to 64.

Another study from the Pop Dynamics Research Group at the University of Southern California focused on the importance of developing intentional strategies for Second Generation Americans as they enter what they call the “Training Age” from age 18 to 24. This is when young adults go to college, trade schools, and have their first experience of work. From 2010 to 2030, 98% of the job growth in California will be attributed to Second Generation Americans. The study says, “This underscores how vital the second generation will be both as a source of labor forces and as the major source for replenishing the work force that would otherwise be depleted through increasing numbers of retirements.”

One of the primary places this information impacts is on California’s churches whose primary strategy over the years has been to reach newcomers to the state.  In the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s the focus was on welcoming people from other states who carried with them mid-western worldviews and  were primarily white and black.  In the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, the focus was on reaching new immigrant populations by offering ministries in their native languages and who reflected the cultural heritage of the country from where they came.

Today’s generation of young people under the age of 30 in California are Second Generation, homegrown residents. They are the ones who are finding it difficult to find a place in California’s overcrowded colleges, who carry with them huge student dept, and will find it difficult to find housing in an expensive and competitive real estate market.  The future of the church will depend on its ability to connect with its homegrown population.  To reach this generation churches will need to pivot their approach to focus on the cultural norms and expectations of a diverse young adult and youth population whose main identity is Californian.  Not the California of the past, but a new California whose values and worldview is being re-imaged by a Second Generation whose cultural diversity defines them.

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