Rapid growth among certain racial and ethnic groups means the nation is becoming more diverse more quickly than expected.
Census data from 2020 shows America is growing, but not equally.
The data, released in August by the Census Bureau, will provide insight into local communities, help officials redraw congressional and state political lines, and be used to determine much federal funding for the next decade.
Major population gains in the Southern and Western regions of the country bolstered a 7.4 percent national increase in population over the past decade, with some of the biggest changes in Texas, Florida, Georgia and Washington state. Despite the gains, the pace of national growth slowed to its lowest rate since the 1930s.
The data shows that as the country grows, its racial makeup is changing. In an increasing number of places, no individual race constitutes a large majority of the population.
The biggest driver of both growth and diversity: the Hispanic population.
Hispanic population booms across the country
In 1990, Hispanics accounted for 9 percent of the U.S. population. Now, they account for 18.7 percent, becoming the largest non-White minority group and the second-fastest-growing single-race demographic group.
Hispanics also account for half of the nation’s population growth in the past decade, showing increases in nearly every county across the United States.
In Florida, the Hispanic population also flourished — and not just in the southern part of the state. Central Florida is home to a large Puerto Rican population, which continued to grow after Hurricane Maria caused many to flee the island in 2017. New Cuban residents also added to Florida’s population. In recent history, Cubans have been in the top 10 immigrant groups in the United States. The top four counties of residence for Cuban immigrants — approximately two-thirds of the Cuban American population — are all in Florida.
Immigration accounts for only a portion of the growth in the Hispanic population.
Instead, most of the growth stems from natural increases — more births than deaths — which is reflected in the diversity of the youngest Americans. Over half of the U.S. population under 15 identified as non-White for the first time in 2019. In the census a year later, almost 53 percent of people under 18 identified as non-White. Of that group, Hispanics made up half.
Widespread Asian population growth
The Asian and Pacific Islander population saw a growth pattern similar to Hispanics but on a much smaller scale. Despite relatively small numbers, Asians grew at rates faster than any other single-race group.
Seattle’s booming technology industry is attracting new residents to the area. The software developer career path is Seattle’s most common job, and in the United States 1 in 3 software developers are Asian, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The tech scene in Seattle also has the highest percentages of foreign-born workers in the United States.
A large portion of growth in the Asian population can be attributed to immigration. Since 2009, the increase of Chinese and Indian immigrants made annual Asian immigration counts higher than such numbers for Hispanics. Almost 60 percent of Asian Americans were born in another country.
The Asian American population grew by 36 percent over the last decade, and projections do not show gains slowing down anytime soon. By 2060, the Asian population in the United States is expected to pass 46 million, nearly four times what it was in 2000.
Black Americans move away from rural counties
Before the turn of the 21st century, the Black population was the largest minority group in the nation. Black Americans gained roughly 2.3 million people since 2010 but have roughly stayed consistent in share of the U.S. population, hovering around 12 percent, for the past three decades.
The movement of Black Americans away from Chicago echoes patterns of a “reverse Great Migration.” Slowly beginning in the 1970s and continuously gaining traction, the group is moving to the suburbs and back to the South. Black people are moving to the South for a multitude of reasons: greater economic opportunity, lower cost of living, and high cultural and familial affinities.
While the Black population is shifting across the United States, it is also changing shape. Black Americans who identify as a single race are aging, adding five years to their median age since 2000, while multiracial Black people are younger than any other group — they have a median age of 16. Hispanics are the largest non-White U.S. population under 18, followed by Black people as the second-largest non-White group in the same age range.
American Indian and Alaska Native population saw modest gains nationwide
In the past decade, the American Indian and Alaska Native population increased by almost 11,000 people. It’s the smallest growth the group has seen since at least 1990, with only a 0.5 increase. After a 5 percent undercount of people living on reservations in the 2010 Census, the bureau prioritized accuracy in 2020.
American Indians continue to move away from reservations and other tribal lands to cities because of increased educational and employment opportunities elsewhere, as well as more comprehensive health care.
Most American Indians and Alaska Natives reside in the West, the only region that gained population among this group. The small 3.3 percent increase in the West was bolstered by only three states — New Mexico, Idaho and Montana — that grew at rates above the national average.
The American Indian and Native Alaskan population has continuously grown since 1960, when Americans were able to choose their racial identity on census forms. It is unclear which factors primarily contribute to the population increases — high births, low deaths and immigration counts on their own would not suffice. Some researchers say it could be a cultural shift: less stigma and more pride in being of native identity.
White population falls for the first time
This census marks the first decade the total number of people who identify as non-Hispanic Whites declined. The population decreased by 5.1 million. It is the first time this has happened in the 230 years since the enumeration started.
The White population suffered from two disproportionate characteristics that defined their decade: high mortality and low fertility. The shifts mean the group is becoming older, and the nation’s younger generations are becoming less White over time.
As recently as 1990, three-fourths of the U.S. population identified as White, a proportion that is rapidly declining. Now, only 57.8 percent of the population identifies as White. Roughly 4 in 10 people identified as non-White in this census, a figure that is predicted to continue growing as the nation moves toward the next decennial census in 2030.