SAN FRANCISCO—One in six Americans—more than 50 million people—are Latino, according to new Census data released Thursday, highlighting a dramatic shift in the U.S. population over the past decade that is changing the face of the nation far more quickly than many experts had predicted.
The Latino population soared by 43 percent from 2000 to 2010, accounting for more than half of the overall U.S. population gain, the Census Bureau reported. The increase was most striking in Southern states that have not traditionally had large Latino communities, such as Georgia, Kentucky, Alabama, North Carolina and Louisiana. But heavily Latino states such as Nevada, Arizona, Texas and California saw sharp increases as well.
The growth rate for Asians matched that of Latinos, though they make up a much smaller segment of the overall U.S. population. The percentage of blacks across the U.S. held steady, while the proportion of white Americans declined.
In 2010, Latinos accounted for 16 percent of the 309 million people in the U.S.. Asians made up 5 percent and African Americans 12 percent. More than 9 million people checked two or more race categories on the 2010 census form, up 32 percent from 2000. Some 3 percent of the U.S. population now identifies as multi-racial.
Latino Estimates Exceeded in 40 States
The growth of the Latino population exceeded estimates in 40 of the 50 states, the Census Bureau said. Seven states would have lost population if it weren’t for Hispanics, whose numbers increased mainly because of high immigration and birth rates.
This past decade was the first since the 1960s when the number of Latino births surpassed the number of immigrants, according to Jeffrey Passel, a demographer with the Pew Hispanic Center. There were almost 5 million more Latino children in 2010 than in 2000, and more than half the under-18 population in California and New Mexico are Latino.
By contrast, the white population is aging and stagnant. The number of non-Hispanic whites edged up just 1 percent over the past 10 years—and decreased as a proportion of the total U.S. population, from 69 percent to 64 percent. Demographers predicted that that within three decades, Latinos would outnumber white Americans.
Minorities now make up a majority of the population in 10 states and the District of Columbia.
Big Political Battles Ahead
The new Census numbers are likely to have major political repercussions in the coming months and years, as states use the population data to redraw legislative and Congressional districts. The changes will have a direct impact on the House of Representatives, where the number of seats allocated to each state is determined by the size of its population.
The process is expected to be especially contentious this year because many of the states in the South and West that are picking up House seats are Republican-leaning, such as Georgia, Texas, Arizona, and Florida. But most of their growth is being driven by Latinos, who tend to vote Democratic.
The data released Thursday—the first set of national-level findings from the 2010 Census on race and migration—also showed how the population has shifted within the U.S. Americans continued their decades-long migration to fast-growing parts of the Sun Belt and West, pushing the nation's new center of population roughly 30 miles southwest to a spot near the tiny town of Plato, Missouri.
But among many African Americans, the migration was southward. Blacks abandoned big cities such as Oakland, Chicago, New York and Detroit—whose overall population plunged 25 percent— for the suburbs of cities like Atlanta, Dallas and Houston. Both Michigan and Illinois had their first declines in the black population since statehood.
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