Mar 18, 2024 - News

San Diego population shrunk in 2023: By the numbers

Change in population, 2020 to 2023
Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

San Diego County lost more than 25,000 residents from 2020 to 2023 — a 0.8% drop in population, according to new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Why it matters: San Diego is no longer a growth machine, as the city has become one of the most expensive in the nation, making homeownership unaffordable for many.

By the numbers: Nearly 3.27 million people lived in San Diego County as of July, per census data.

  • That's down 7,200 from 2022, a year that saw population growth after a pandemic exodus statewide.
  • The region's population stood at 3.295 million in July 2020, but high cost of living has since driven population declines.

Driving the news: Data was released last week for the Census Bureau's annual Population Estimates Program, which calculates the population between censuses.

Zoom in: San Diego's natural population change — the number of people born here compared to the number who died — was positive in 2023, with births outpacing deaths by 12,882.

  • Yes, but: The population overall took a hit, because 30,745 more people left the county than moved here.
  • That's the largest one-year decline in domestic migration in nearly 30 years, excluding the first year of the pandemic, the Union-Tribune reported.
  • And international migration added 10,767 people to the county's population.

Between the lines: The region grew by 1 million people from 1980 to 2000; however, San Diego added only half a million people in the past 20 years.

  • Part of the reason: While the region's death rate increased, its birth rate decreased and migration stayed flat.
Change in population, 2020 to 2023
Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

The big picture: San Diego County had the ninth-largest domestic out-migration in 2023.

  • Los Angeles was first, with nearly 120,000 people leaving the county.

Zoom out: Other California cities saw some of the largest drops in population among major U.S. metros, including LA (-2.9%) and San Francisco (-3.7%).

  • Meanwhile, several Florida cities saw an explosion of growth, topped by Lakeland (12.1%) near Tampa.
  • Provo, Utah (8.4%) and Austin, Texas (7.5%) also grew considerably.
  • And there was a 1% increase nationwide.
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