Census data reveals growth in racial, ethnic diversity in U.S.

The U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington, D.C., on Monday. Thursday's data drop from the 2020 Census will begin a frenzied race to redraw congressional districts that will impact the results of House races during the 2020s, and possibly which party controls the lower chamber for the next decade. Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI

Aug. 13 (UPI) — Census data released Thursday indicates that the United States is growing more racially diverse and that the number of people who identify as White in the country has decreased for the first time in more than two centuries.

According to the detailed data from the 2020 census, 204.3 million people identified as White, down from 223.6 million in 2010, an 8.6% decrease. The Census Bureau warned that comparisons between the past two censuses should be “made with caution” because the bureau retooled how questions about race and ethnicity are asked.

“As the country has grown, we have continued to evolve in how we measure the race and ethnicity of the people who live here,” said Nicholas Jones, director and senior adviser for race and ethnicity research and outreach at the Census Bureau.

“Today’s release of 2020 census redistricting data provides a new snapshot of the racial and ethnic composition and diversity of the country. The improvements we made to the 2020 Census yield a more accurate portrait of how people self-identify in response to two separate questions on Hispanic origin and race, revealing that the U.S. population is much more multiracial and more diverse than what we measured in the past.”

In addition to a reduction in the absolute number of people who identify as White, the portion of the overall population also dropped from 63.7% in 2010 to 57.8% in 2020.

For the first time, the Hispanic or Latino population became the most prevalent ethnic group in California. The non-Hispanic White population remained the majority in all other states and territories except Hawaii, New Mexico, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

The detailed data from the 2020 census is likely to have an impact on federal elections for the rest of the decade, beginning with next year’s midterms.

The key population data also will begin a political redistricting process — redrawing congressional districts — that occurs once every decade.

The data released Thursday is used to re-evaluate congressional districts, which are based on population sizes and makeup. Because the next census won’t come until 2030, the changes will last for the remainder of the decade, if they withstand legal challenges.

The redistricting is expected to impact the 2022 midterms in 15 months, an election when Democrats will be looking to maintain and expand their majority in the House of Representatives and expand their narrow control of the Senate. Republicans, on the other hand, are looking to retake control of both chambers.

Democratic and Republican strategists predict that some states will finalize their new maps as soon as September. About half of states will set their new districts by the end of 2021 and the rest will follow in the first few months of 2022, Politico reported.

According to census reapportionment data released in April, the influential states of Texas, Florida and North Carolina gained a total of four House seats for 2022. All three states voted to re-elect former President Donald Trump last November.

Colorado, Montana and Oregon are the only other states to gain seats in the House, according to reapportionment data.

The data revealed that cities (8.7%) have grown faster than the overall population (7.35%).

Results from the 2020 Census have been weighed down by concerns that the process was rushed under Trump’s administration due to delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the former administration’s failed efforts to add a citizenship question.

Thursday’s data was originally scheduled to be released in April but was pushed back because of the delays. The bureau committed to release the information this month after Alabama filed a lawsuit calling for its prompt release.

An external task force from the American Statistical Association has been observing and assessing the bureau’s process and the organization said last week it will release a report on state-level apportionment numbers following the release of the redistricting files.

In January, Census Bureau Director Steve Dillingham announced his resignation almost a year before he was supposed to retire.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last week approved President Joe Biden’s selection to lead the bureau, Robert Santos, and placed him on track for full Senate confirmation.

Thursday’s data will be released in a raw “legacy” format that can take weeks for states to disseminate. The information will be distributed more broadly in an “easier-to-use” format by the end of next month, the Census Bureau said.

“It’s like Ikea furniture instead of Pottery Barn,” Kelly Ward Burton, president of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said of the raw data coming Thursday, according to Politico.

“When you buy from Pottery Barn, it all comes assembled. It’s like, ‘Here’s your desk.’ But when you get it from Ikea, it’s like, ‘Build it yourself.'”

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