Estimates & Forecasts

SANDAG has produced growth forecasts of population, housing, employment, income, and land use in the San Diego region since 1971. These forecasts help SANDAG and local jurisdictions plan appropriate facilities, services, and development practices over the long term. 

Series 15 Forecast: What Will the Region Look Like in 2050?

Every four years, the SANDAG Data Science team works with local jurisdictions, the California State Department of Finance, demographic and economic experts, and other stakeholders to create a long-term forecast that predicts what the region will look like in terms of population, housing units, and number of jobs. The draft Series 15 forecast, which has a launch year of 2022 and looks out to 2050, was recently completed and is being used in the modeling and planning for the 2025 Regional Plan to identify how we will improve transportation, equity, and the environment for people in the greater San Diego area to meet our regional goals. It is also used by local jurisdictions as part of their planning efforts and by other municipal departments and agencies. This InfoBits highlights trends from this new forecast and discusses implications for the region. Series 15 forecast data will also be available on SANDAG’s Open Data Portal in Spring 2024.

Series 14: 2050 Regional Growth Forecast 

The Series 14 Regional Growth Forecast includes assumptions about how local plans and policies may evolve over time in response to the region’s continuing growth. Most current local plans typically project ten or twenty years in the future. Starting with the Series 13 Regional Growth Forecast, the horizon year was set thirty years in the future to 2050. To bridge the gap in projected years, SANDAG began the forecast with adopted general plans and policies from the 18 incorporated cities and the unincorporated County. Then, local jurisdictions were asked to provide detailed feedback on anticipated land use planning changes. The Series 14 Regional Growth Forecast includes this feedback along with the general plans to create a better assessment of where change may occur in the coming decades. 

For the Series 14 Regional Growth Forecast, SANDAG produced a baseline subregional allocation based on existing plans and policies. In addition, to support the 2021 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy (RTP/SCS), SANDAG produced the SCS Land Use Pattern which assumes a densification of land use within Mobility Hubs. Refer to the Series 14 Baseline and SCS Land Use Pattern documentation for more information on the assumptions and methodology used in the respective forecast scenarios.

Employment Clusters Analysis

Employment clusters are at the center of regional economic development policy because of their overall potential impact on the region's standard of living. The 16 industrial clusters drive wealth creation in the region by exporting goods and services and attracting new wealth from both domestic and international markets. First identified by SANDAG in the mid-1990s, employment in the San Diego region's 16 cluster industries grew by 19% between 1990 and 1998. At the same time, total employment in the region grew by 14 percent. SANDAG estimates that the region's clusters now employ more than 375,780 people, accounting for 34 percent of the region's total employment.

SANDAG defines clusters as groups of interrelated businesses that drive wealth creation in a region. The 16 industrial clusters encompass software and computer services, computer and electronic manufacturing, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, medical services, defense and transportation manufacturing, and entertainment and amusement. They also include recreational goods manufacturing, horticulture, environmental technology, and visitor industry services. Clusters include businesses from both the traditional and "modern" economy, such as agriculture and biotechnology.

Economic growth in clusters benefits the entire economy because businesses are highly interrelated, buying and selling each other’s goods and services. Clusters are the region’s drivers. However, because their markets are not limited by the size of the local economy, they can expand far beyond it. The region’s diverse clusters have been performing very well and have help our local economy weather the current economic downturn better than many other areas in the nation.

Currently, employment clusters are increasingly being used to help decision-makers guide workforce development programs, retain high value-added jobs, understand the infrastructure needs of the regional economy, and allocate public resources. The San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, Regional Technology Alliance, and the San Diego Workforce Partnership are among the growing number of local groups in the region that rely on and utilize employment clusters in their business plans and strategies.

Employment Centers 2.0

Almost one in five trips made in the San Diego region is someone going to or from work, even with more people working remotely than ever before. SANDAG released Employment Centers 2.0 in early 2024. In addition to updating all the data sources used in Employment Centers 1.0, this 2.0 version also includes data on non-wage and salary jobs, the ability to work remotely, military bases and tribal gaming facilities, as well as travel commute patterns to different community planning areas for the City of San Diego. Interactive dashboards and data downloading are available on SANDAG Open Data Portal that enables analyses by employment center, jurisdiction, and tier. Using data to understand better where people work and live can help plan and implement transportation options for the different needs of our diverse region. As the region changes over time with an aging population, more remote work, and longer workforce participation rates, understanding how land use and transportation options align is necessary to create thriving communities for everyone.

Employment Centers 1.0

To help identify critical transportation connects in development of the 2021 Regional Plan, SANDAG identified and analyzed employment centers across the region. Employment centers are areas with high densities of employment. Our analysis identified where employment centers are in the region, what industries are located there, where the employees in these areas commute from, and what their commutes look like.