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.


About David Edmondson
A native Marinite working in Washington, DC, I am fascinated by how one might apply smart-growth and urbanist thinking to the low-density towns of my home.

10 Responses to Marin is growing, and not slowly

  1. Stephen Nestel says:

    What statistical source are you quoting? ABAG? MTC? DOF? US Census?

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  2. Stephen Nestel says:

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    • [Removed as part of a thread violating comment policy.]

      • Stephen Nestel says:

        Okay, Dave, here is where your argument fails. Assuming your statistics are accurate, the size of Marin growing 1% and San Jose growing at say .5% can hardly be comparable due to the vast differences in population. This is a statistically distorted argument.

        The amazing thing about growth in the free market, is that supply and demand balance. It could be that rising rents in San Francisco have shifted population to Marin. It doesn’t necessarily follow that we are growing economically. In fact Marin has been quite stagnant and loses big companies for decades.

        Your right that Marin is greying. That indicates that the supply of housing should shift to senior housing, not “workforce” housing. I fail to understand why the “smart set” in government thinks they can understand the dynamics of supply and demand better than the marketplace. Centrally planned economies don’t work, stifle innovation and ultimately reduce the quality of life of all those forced to live under their burden.


        • Neil says:

          “Centrally planned economies don’t work”
          “the supply of housing should shift to senior housing”

          Do you actually read what you say before you post?

        • I’d be fine with a freer market, but we’ve been over that debate time and again. A freer market would mean loosening zoning laws, ending subsidies to residential areas that don’t pay their way, ending subsidies to transportation in general, and attempting to regulate the commons through pricing rather than government fiat.

          The supply of housing would likely shift to smaller homes and senior homes in Central and Northern Marin and larger homes in Southern Marin if the government allowed for it, but the government doesn’t allow it now and, in point of fact, actually discourages it.

          • Stephen Nestel says:

            Fair enough. The department of finance statistics are the gold standard of demographic data. It blends the census data with actual birth/death/migration statistics. ABAG is supposed to use their data to craft growth projections. Instead they hired a “rent-a-phd” to come up with their “magical formula” featuring straight line projections of economic and financial growth for twenty five years. It doesn’t pass the sniff test but it is the basis of “Plan Bay Area”. Most of the people moving into my neighborhood are young families from San Francisco, seeking warm weather, open space, safe streets and good schools. We have been relatively content until, the “Urbanize Marin” crowd came to town.

            As I said in a previous post on zoning, I do believe it has its place in a free market. Zoning ensures the consistent and compatible use of neighborhoods. This provides the most value to the community as it keeps incompatible uses separate.

            The best article I’ve read on zoning is here:

            It is a somewhat academic piece exploring the pluses and minuses of zoning. The best concept is what are described as “neighborhood externalities”. or “the commons”, which can be described as “neighborhood character”.. We don’t need to destroy the character of Marin to serve some ideological objective. Smart Growth cities can flourish beside suburban villages. It will work itself out, Someday, you too may be among our suburban neighbors.

            “Growth for growth’s sake is the philosophy of the cancer cell”-Edmund Abbey

  3. Is there any information about where this recent population growth in Marin is occurring, e.g., estimates by City? Any information from the California Department of Finance?

    • City data will come with the demographic data, so I’m impatient to see that.

      Department of Finance data was sent to me this morning by another reader. It pulls information from different sources, so its outcome with necessarily be slightly different. The numbers:

      California: 0.88% year-on-year growth
      Bay Area: 1.26%
      North Bay: 0.83%
      Marin: 0.75% (to 256,000)

      Marin here is the slowest in the region and slower than the state, but still much faster than what the Census shows as its historical growth of 0.2% average. I don’t have historical DOF data for Marin to compare it to.

      I believe you can search for the E-6 report to find the raw numbers.

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