Marin is growing, and not slowly

Marin County’s population grew by 1 percent from 2012 to 2013, slightly faster than the state and much faster than the country at large. The new numbers challenge the concept of Marin as a naturally slow-growth county. In total, Marin added about 2,500 people in 2013, bringing our population up to over 258,000 for the first time. If we keep up the pace, we’ll break 260,000 in 2014.

Our growth rate is 0.1 percentage points faster than California, which grew by 0.9 percent between 2012 and 2013, and 0.3 percentage points faster than the United States as a whole. It’s 0.3 points slower than the Bay Area at large, however, which was driven by swift growth in Alameda and Santa Clara (1.6 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively). Instead, rather than tracking with San Francisco, Marin grew at a rate typical of North Bay counties: 0.9 percent in Sonoma, 1.1 percent in Solano, and 1 percent in Napa.

This is far faster than our historic growth rate.

Between 2000 and 2010, Marin only added about 5,000 people in total, an annual growth rate of just 0.2 percent. In just 3 years, from 2010 to 2013, however, we added almost 6,000 people, an average annual growth rate of 0.7 percent.

Most of our newcomers were not new births but migrants. Natural increase – births minus deaths – accounted for less than 20 percent of the new population. Net migration accounted for the rest, showing that we aren't a county of young, growing families.

While full demographic information for 2013 won’t be out until later this year*, results from 2012 showed that Marin has been steadily aging, with a new median age of 45.2, up from 44.5 in 2010. Marin is already the oldest county in the Bay Area with the most bedrooms per person, and this is likely not to decrease.

It will be interesting to see if these trends continue. If so, it will provide strong evidence that Marin is leaving behind its traditional role as a family-centered suburb and instead is entering a prolonged period as the Bay Area's retirement community. If this year bucks the trend, then perhaps a future of rich retirees is not quite written in stone.

Either way, the slow-growth narrative is challenged by this past year's growth. We are growing far faster than we did in the past decade, much more in line with the region and even faster than the state. It will be interesting to see how county leaders and activists respond.

*Once 2013 demographic data is released, we will revisit the analysis published in 2012: age, household size, household growth, units, bedrooms, rents, and household income.

Update: The source of the population growth figures is the United States Census, which estimates population each year for every county in the country.