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Researchers have warned that steps taken by the Census Bureau to protect individual responses may muddy other areas of data and research. (Dreamstime/TNS)

LOS ANGELES – California is poised to lose a congressional seat for the first time in its history as a state, based on U.S. Census Bureau population estimates released Monday that showed the nation’s growth continued to slow in 2019.

Some 27 states and the District of Columbia lost residents through net domestic migration between 2018 and 2019, the new census data show.

About 203,000 people left California in that period, a result of the state’s shifting migration patterns and economic strains that are making it harder to afford living here. New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Louisiana also saw large losses to other states.

California’s potential loss in reapportionment, which will be determined by next year’s census count, would drop the state’s number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives from 53 to 52, said William Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

“It’s got a lot to do with dispersion from California to the rest of the west,” Frey said. “Arizona, Texas and Colorado are all big destinations for California migrants, and they all are gaining seats.”

A 2019 relocation study by Texas Realtors found that 63,175 Californians moved to Texas in 2017, while California was the top destination for Texans to move – nearly 41,000 relocated here.

Texas is likely to gain three seats following the 2020 decennial count, according to Frey’s analysis of census data, while states such as Arizona, Colorado and Oregon may gain one seat apiece.

The apportionment population count for each of the 50 states includes the state’s total resident population – citizens and non-citizens – as well as a count of the overseas federal employees and their dependents who have that state listed as their home state in their employers’ administrative records, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The House of Representatives is limited to 435 members, not under the U.S. Constitution, but because of a 1929 federal law that could be changed if lawmakers and the president agreed to do so.

Exactly where California would lose a seat in the House depends on which communities are larger or smaller compared to census numbers from 2010. The state’s Citizens Redistricting Commission, whose members will be selected in coming months, will hold public hearings in 2021 to determine how to redraw congressional maps.

Paul Mitchell, one of the state’s leading analysts of the redistricting process, said that two places could dominate the discussion: the communities sitting at the intersection of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties and the suburbs to the east of San Francisco.

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