The Economy

Census Shows Historic Decline in White Population

"The U.S. population is much more multiracial and more racially and ethnically diverse than what we have measured in the past."
Matthew HellerAugust 13, 2021

The first detailed data from the 2020 U.S. census showed the second-slowest population growth on record, with the total number of white people declining for the first time in history.

The fall in the white population came as the Hispanic and Asian populations boomed, increasing by around a third and almost a quarter between 2010 and 2020, respectively.

“Our analysis of the 2020 census results [shows] that the U.S. population is much more multiracial and more racially and ethnically diverse than what we have measured in the past,” said Nicholas Jones, director of race and ethnic research and outreach for the Census Bureau’s population division.

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The bureau said the nation’s population grew just 7.4% during the decade, the second slowest rate after the 1930s when America was in the throes of the Great Depression. Just over half the growth came from gains among Hispanic residents.

The non-Hispanic white share of the population fell from 63.7% to 57.8% of the total, or 191 million people, while the Hispanic share grew from 16.3% to 18.7%, or 62.1 million people. The Asian population reached 20 million, growing from 4.8% of the total to 6%.

“Democrats have reason to be happy with this census data set,” Dave Wasserman, House editor of the Cook Political Report, told The New York Times, citing the higher-than-expected population tallies in New York and Chicago and the steady growth of the nation’s Hispanic population.

According to the Times, “Many Democrats had feared that Latino and urban voters would be badly undercounted amid the coronavirus pandemic and the Trump administration’s effort to ask about citizenship status.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that the declining white population reflects decades of falling birth rates, rising death rates, and minimal immigration. Texas, where Hispanic residents now roughly equal non-Hispanic whites, is “on the cusp of becoming a true battleground state,” the Times said.

In Georgia, a battleground state in the 2020 election,  just 50.1% of residents were non-Hispanic whites, raising the possibility that whites already represent a minority of the state’s population.

Win McNamee via Getty Images