In Biggest U.S. Cities, Minorities Are at 50%

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Tue Dec 9 13:00:21 UTC 2008


December 9, 2008
In Biggest U.S. Cities, Minorities Are at 50%


For the first time, Hispanic, black, Asian and other nonwhite
residents account for half the population of the nation's largest
cities, according to new census figures. Further, the data document a
rapidly growing ethnic diversity in small-town America as well. In
2000, the Census Bureau found that non-Hispanic whites were 52.3
percent of the people in the central cities of all metropolitan areas.
In the latest count, that share had declined to 50.2 percent. The
decline among whites in the suburbs was even more pronounced, to less
than 72 percent from nearly 76 percent. In rural areas, the share of
whites declined slightly, that of blacks remained the same, and the
proportion of Asians and especially Hispanics increased.

The figures, from a three-year combined count taken by the bureau's
American Community Survey in 2005-7, offers a first detailed look
since the 2000 census at the growing diversity of small-town America:
towns and counties of 20,000 to 65,000 people. "What we found was that
in large part, they look a lot like the total population," said Scott
Boggess, survey coordinator for household and economic statistics.
Many of the small towns, some of them home to colleges, mirrored
changes taking place in cities and suburbs. Of the 50,000 people age 5
or over in Dallas County, Iowa, for instance, the number who speak a
language other than English at home rose 69 percent from 2000, to

In Enterprise, Nev., population 65,000, which led small-town growth
for every major racial group, the Hispanic population grew by a factor
of five, to 9,800, and the Asian population grew thirteenfold, to
10,200. "Not only are new immigrant minorities spreading away from
metropolitan areas, but they are now moving to small places, both
within, outside and far beyond traditional settlements," said William
H. Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer.

Dr. Frey said the shifts so far this decade "reflect economic forces
that have driven middle-income whites and some blacks to smaller
places, thus creating jobs in construction and other low-skilled
industries for immigrant minorities in small suburbs and exurbs across
the country."

Most of the smaller cities and towns that have registered big influxes
of Hispanics and Asians are in or near states, like California,
Florida and Texas, where those groups' immigrant populations and their
descendants have traditionally settled. But there are a smattering of
newer destinations as well, including Virginia and Chicago.

A separate analysis of the latest figures by Mark Mather, associate
vice president for domestic programs at the Population Reference
Bureau, a research organization in Washington, found growing poverty
rates among children in the nation's midsize counties, small towns and
rural areas.

High poverty rates in Appalachia, the rural South, the Rio Grande
Valley and the Upper Midwest "are linked to long-term social and
economic trends in these areas, rather than short-term fluctuations in
wages or unemployment," Dr. Mather said.

Over all, Dr. Frey said, the latest survey figures "provide a vivid
snapshot of how immigrants and newer racial minorities are dispersing,
not only to new states, regions and metropolitan areas but to
smaller-sized places within them."

"They were first drawn by economic pulls to these areas," he said,
"but as these groups continue to establish roots in small-town
America, they will gradually change the fabric of minority-majority
interactions nationwide."

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