Minorities Driving U.S. Population Growth, Congressional Redistricting

The results of the long-awaited 2010 U.S. Census are in and reveal some interesting statistics.  One is the fact that 85 percent of the nation’s population growth over the last 10 years is attributable to minorities – primarily Hispanics, who make up the gains made in states that will add new seats in the House of Representatives. Early results also indicate that the number of multiracial Americans climbed approximately 20 percent since 2000 to more than 5 million individuals.

“The growth of the Hispanic community is one of the stories that will be written from the 2010 census,” Census director Robert Groves said, previewing major demographic trends, including the movement of many minorities from cities to suburbs.  We should see a big difference from 2000 to 2010.”  E. Mark Braden, a former chief counsel to the Republican National Committee who now advises state governments on redistricting, agrees noting that “There are going to be a lot of additional Hispanic officials elected when redistricting is done.”

The minority growth seen in the 2010 Census is the largest in generations.  Only the influx of European minority immigrants – primarily Italians, Poles and Jews – towards the end of the 19th century rival it in scope, said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution.  “The new engines of growth in America’s population are Hispanics, Asians and other minorities,” Frey said. “But it’s just the tip of the iceberg.  For the under-18 population — potential voters in the not-too-distant future — minorities accounted for virtually all the growth in most U.S. states.  Political strategists and advocates, especially in growing states, cannot afford to ignore this surging political wave.”

Four of the eight states that are gaining House seats as a result of the 2010 Census owe approximately half of their population gains to Hispanics.  They include Texas, which picks up four seats; Florida, which adds two seats; and Arizona and Nevada, which gain one seat each.  In Georgia and Washington, which are picking up one seat each, Hispanics and other minority groups represent a majority of their growth since 2000.

Among states losing House seats, Louisiana and New Jersey each would have posted a net population loss, and Michigan would have seen more significant declines, if it hadn’t been for Hispanic growth.  Latinos also made up nearly 60 percent of the growth in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa and Massachusetts — each of which loses a House seat.

Not surprisingly, minority births are driving diversity.  Record levels of births among minorities over the past 10 years are moving the United States a step closer to a demographic milestone in which no one group commands a majority, according to Census estimates. Minorities accounted for nearly 49 percent of births in the year ending July 1, 2009, a record high level.  “There are more than 500 counties which have a majority of minority children,” says Kenneth Johnson, demographer at the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute.  “The population is changing to minority from the bottom up.”