California is becoming increasingly home grown.
The state's demographics are changing — not simply because of the decline of the white share of the population and growth of the immigrant share but because of the surprising rise of the native-Californian majority.
Since the Gold Rush, growth of the state's population was mostly driven by outsiders moving in.
But today's principal engine of population growth is California-born.
Early in this 21st century, native Californians surpassed the number of outsiders for the first time, and now the 19.6 million people born here make up 53.3 percent of the state's population.
The milestone has attracted little attention despite its historical and economic importance.
The new homegrown majority is overwhelmingly young. Nearly three-quarters of those ages 15 to 24 are California-born. About 38 percent of middle-aged adults — ages 45 to 54 — were born in the state, up from 21.6 percent in 1970.
How might the new native majority affect California's fortunes? Homegrown Californians appear to be more deeply committed to their state's future, according to research that John Pitkin, Ricardo Ramirez and I have done.
In age groups in which natives figure prominently, there is a greater willingness to raise taxes to improve public services. For example, 59.2 percent of likely voters age 25 to 34 (47.4 percent California-born) would back higher taxes, compared with 42.5 percent of those ages 45 to 54 (38.2 percent California-born).
One possible reason for these young voters' willingness to tax themselves at higher rates is that they will live in the state longer than their parents and would have more to lose if their quality of life suffers from a declining California.
This explanation is reinforced by research showing that people born in California are three times more likely than migrants to remain here. About 18 percent of the non-California-born college-educated workers age 35 to 39 moved out of the state within five years of arriving, according to a recent study of the 2000 census. Of those born here, only 6 percent left. Foreign-born workers were also less likely to stay in the state.
The tendency of homegrown Californians to stay put may benefit the state economy down the road, especially with the graying of the U.S. population. Baby boomers start turning 65 in 2011, and their numbers will quickly swell. In the competition for replacement workers, California employers can look to the large homegrown labor force, while those across the Midwest and Northeast will have to recruit beyond their borders to meet demand.
When recruiters try to poach workers in California, they will more likely lure non-natives than natives.
The state's growing homegrown population also may help fix its broken housing sector. All other things being equal, the odds of homeownership are one-third greater for native Californians than for transplants. And if they have college degrees, they pay higher prices, on average, than high school graduates who buy a home.
All this is good news for California. But our natives can be successful only if we invest more in them.
Education is particularly relevant here because the quality of the future homegrown work force depends on California's schools. In 1970, the great majority of the state's work force was born and educated outside the state.
In the coming decade, by contrast, employers will increasingly turn to homegrown workers to replace those retiring, and it is crucial to the Golden State's economic future that they be better educated than their non-native predecessors. That means more native Californians should obtain college degrees, which requires a far greater public investment in our schools.
Only reluctantly, however, have California voters taken on the burden of investing more in the homegrown generation. But every state resident would benefit from a better-prepared homegrown generation. These are the people who will increasingly replace retiring workers, pay taxes and buy houses. Their increasing numbers are great news because their help is so needed.
Myers is a professor of demography and urban planning at the University of Southern California.