The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

4 maps that show how demographic change will touch every corner of the country

<a href="">Urban Institute</a>

Over the next 15 years, America is in for tremendous demographic change. Parts of the country (the Rust Belt, stretches of the Great Plains) will lose population, as many Southern cities (Atlanta, Las Vegas, Charlotte) swell in size. The retiring Baby Boom population will dramatically alter the age demographics of many communities, leaving some with larger burdens on social services and fewer workers to help fund them.

And nearly every corner of the country will grow more diverse — from rural Wisconsin, where small minority populations could double in size, to metropolitan Houston, which could have more than one million new Hispanic residents by 2030.

These changes will be simultaneous and swift, and they'll affect everything from how we use resources, to where we build new communities, to how we educate our kids. The Urban Institute, which has mapped what this demographic future might look like, projects in one modest growth scenario that the U.S. may be home to 49 million more people by 2030.

"To me, it’s kind of daunting," says Rolf Pendall, director of the Urban Institute's Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center. "But it’s a huge opportunity to think about the ways in which that growth can reshape the country."

Using past demographic trends, the Urban Institute has created an interactive tool that projects population change out to 2030 down to local "commuting zones" (typically larger than a county, encompassing local economies). We'll explore some of the age demographics in the tool later this week. First, though, here is a look at racial diversity in the data. You can play with the assumptions behind the tool's projections. Here, we're using the scenario based on "average" birth, death and migration rates.

The map above shows total population growth and decline from 2010-2030, with places like Houston and Orlando growing dramatically, as Cleveland and Youngstown, Ohio, shrink. This next map shows a similar picture for whites, with their share of the local population dropping most dramatically in dark orange areas:

Projected white population change, 2010-2030

The white population share is projected to fall in densely populated parts of the Northeast, on much of the Pacific Coast, and through the middle of the country. (The white population may grow in total numbers in some these places, but the white share of the population there may decline if other demographic groups are growing faster.)

That picture is closely related to this second one: By 2030, the Hispanic share of the local population is likely to increase almost everywhere in the U.S.

Projected Hispanic population change, 2010-2030

In this scenario, metro Atlanta's Hispanic population grows by about 800,000 over 20 years, in Dallas by 700,000, in Charlotte by about 400,000 (you can scroll over the interactive maps here for full data).

The trends for blacks are much more uneven, with population significantly increasing in some parts of the country and declining in others:

Projected black population change, 2010-2030

That picture shows a partial reversal of the Great Migration — blacks returning to Southern cities like Atlanta and Charlotte. Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland, Northern cities to which blacks moved several generations ago, are all expected to continue losing black population as a result. This trend mirrors the nationwide population shift away from the Rust Belt to the Sun Belt, for people in search of better weather, cheaper housing and more economic opportunity. But middle-aged blacks may also be returning to care for aging family in the South.

The black share of the population is simultaneously likely to rise in smaller communities outside of big cities like Chicago in the Upper Midwest or Upstate New York (note, though, that small minority populations there today make modest future change look big on the above map).

The future envisioned in all of these maps means that many communities will have to confront greater diversity in their neighborhoods, among their electorates, in their schools.

"It opens up a lot of really important questions about how we educate kids in the U.S." Pendall says. Many of the areas with growing minority populations also have high poverty rates in their public schools. "If those states and cities aren’t able to come up with the political and fiscal will to educate kids well — whether because they’re poor, because they're African American or Latino, both or either one — that to me is one of the most important implications of the whole picture that we’re portraying."