Santa Barbara County is growing slower than the statewide average, housing production is still not keeping up with growth, and Hispanics and Latinos now make up the largest percentage of the county’s population, according to a summary report on the 2020 census data.

The report was released last week by the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments and compares figures from the latest U.S. census to those collected in the 2010 count.

“Information from the 2020 census helps decision-makers better understand the region’s population, how to plan for housing, jobs, schools, and to know how much state and federal funding the region will receive for essential community services,” said Marjie Kirn, SBCAG executive director.

For example, the summary report notes that although the population of Santa Barbara County grew by 24,334 people, or 5.7%, to 448,229 since 2010, its population as a percentage of the state population has declined, a trend stretching back as far as 1970.

That lower percentage means the county will receive a smaller proportion of population-based funding for essential programs and services, according to the report.

As the State Census Data Affiliate Center, SBCAG prepared the report based on information in the Census Redistrict file that’s limited to population for cities and the unincorporated areas, housing units and race.

Numbers in the Census Redistrict file are being used by the Santa Barbara County Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission to redraw boundaries for the five supervisorial districts, which will stand until the next census in 2030.

The summary report shows North County population growth continuing to outpace the South County, now accounting for 54% of the county’s total population with 239,868 individuals. In 2010, it was home to 52% of county residents.

Santa Maria showed the largest population growth in the county, rising by 10,154 people, or 10%, from its 2010 total of 99,553, when it accounted for 24% of the total county population.

The city now holds 25% of the county’s population, second only to the unincorporated area, where 31% of the population lives.

Goleta posted the greatest increase in the South Coast area, rising by 2,802 people, while Summerland and Montecito experienced population declines between 2010 and 2020.

But by percentage, Solvang and Guadalupe showed the greatest increase over the 10-year period, with Solvang’s population rising 16.8% and Guadalupe’s expanding by 13.8%.

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The city of Santa Barbara had the smallest percentage increase at just 0.3%.

Housing continued to fall behind population growth, according to the summary, with only one new housing unit built for every 4½ new residents — not enough to house the average number of people per household.

The highest average of people per household in the county is 3.91 in Guadalupe; the lowest is 2.34 in Solvang.

A total of 5,445 new housing units were added throughout the county from 2010 to 2020, an increase of just 3.6% compared to the countywide population growth of 5.7% during that period.

Santa Maria provided the greatest number of new housing units with 1,666, followed by Goleta with 1,170.

The proportion of the county population made up by Hispanics and Latinos increased from 42.9% in 2010 to 47% in 2020, while the proportion of Whites fell from 47.9% in 2010 to 41.2% in 2020

Individuals identifying as Asian also rose in proportion, from 4.6% of the population in 2010 to 5.7% in 2020, as did those claiming a heritage of two or more races, which increased from 2.1% to 3.7% of the total over the 10-year period.

The population’s proportion of Black and African American individuals declined from 1.7% to 1.4%, along with Pacific Islanders, whose proportion fell from 0.2% to 0.1%.

The proportion of American Indians and Alaskan Natives remained static at 0.4% of the county’s population.

Learn more about Santa Barbara County's history, landscape, and traditions from Judith Dale with these 26 stories

Judith Dale has written several columns highlighting the culture, geography and history of the Central Coast. Get better acquainted with our beautiful slice of California with this collection of her work. 

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At one time, Hollister and his partners, the Dibblee Brothers, owned all the land between Refugio Beach and Point Conception. They owned all the land grants around Point Concepcion, the Ortega family’s Refugio Grant, the La Purisima Mission lands and the San Julian Ranch.

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We often overlook and take for granted the importance of the river to our past development and more importantly to our future development and quality of life.

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The area around Guadalupe has evolved through many stages — from Chumash villages, to Spanish rule under Mission La Purisima, to a Mexican land grant, an immigrant farming community, a railroad town, and a modern agricultural city.

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We have the perfect setting for fires: thousands of acres of wilderness with rugged terrain and few roads; rainy winter weather that allows grass and brush to grow, followed by months of hot, dry weather; prevailing winds as well as sundowner winds; and people, who are the cause of most fires.

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Judith Dale looks back to 1920, offering a timeline of progress the U.S. has made over the last 100 years. In most areas such as life expectancy, industry, technology, and position in the world, the U.S. has come a long way. However, many of the social/cultural challenges the country faced in the 1920s, are still with us today.

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