Jonathan Tilove

My Life As A Race Writer

Melting Pot Percolates

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March 6, 2006
c.2006 Newhouse News Service
WASHINGTON _ America’s non-Hispanic white population barely grew between 2000 and 2004, and actually shrank in nearly a third of the nation’s metro areas, while the nation’s Hispanic and Asian populations continued to surge and to spread beyond their past concentration in a handful of metropolitan centers.
Meanwhile, nearly three-quarters of the growth in the black population during that period of time occurred in the South, which is now home to 56 percent of all African-Americans. The Atlanta metro area, which in 1990 had the seventh largest black population in the United States, now ranks third, behind New York and Chicago, and is on a pace to pass Chicago.
These are some of the key findings of a new analysis of census data being released Tuesday by the Brookings Institution in Washington.
The analysis by William Frey, a demographer with the University of Michigan and a visiting fellow at Brookings, offers the most recent snapshot of America’s changing racial and ethnic demography in the decades since the immigration reform of 1965 ushered in a new era of record immigration, mostly from Latin America and Asia.
Nationally, non-Hispanic whites remain two-thirds of the U.S. population. But that is no longer the case across much of the South and Southwest. And now with the dispersion in recent years of Asian and Latino immigrant minorities across the national landscape in pursuit of opportunity and jobs, many more communities are experiencing racial and ethnic change.
“Many parts of America are getting a small taste of diversity for the first time, and in many places the new presence of minorities is being met with some backlash and culture clashes,” Frey said.
Between 2000 and 2004, the Hispanic population grew 16 percent, the Asian population 15 percent and the black population 5 percent.
The white population grew only 1 percent, and a third of the nation’s metro areas _ 111 out of 361 _ lost white population between 2000 and 2004. The U.S. was 67 percent white in 2004, compared with 69 percent in 2000.
Metro areas experiencing the largest losses in absolute numbers of white residents were, in order, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, San Jose, Miami, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Cleveland and Philadelphia _ that is, cities along the nation’s high-priced coasts and in its relatively stagnant Rust Belt.
The places experiencing the greatest gains in white population were, in order, the metro areas surrounding Phoenix, Riverside, Calif., Atlanta, Las Vegas, Dallas-Forth Worth, Sacramento, Portland, Ore., Houston, Tampa-St. Petersburg and Washington, D.C.
But in a shift from historical patterns, the overall growth in many booming metros was more a consequence of minority than white population growth.
For example, whites accounted for only 19 percent of the population growth in metro Atlanta from 2000 to 2004; 31 percent of the growth in metro Las Vegas, and 35 percent of the growth in metro Phoenix, where Hispanics alone accounted for more than half of recent growth.
Moreover, because the black, Hispanic and Asian populations tend to be much younger than the white population, metro areas with majority-minority school-age populations now include not just such traditional immigrant destinations as the Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Chicago metro areas, but also the regions surrounding Phoenix, Tucson, Atlanta and Washington, D.C.
For many patches of America, the last 14 years marked their introduction to significant numbers of immigrants and their children.
As recently as 1990, some 30 percent of all Hispanics lived in the Los Angeles and New York metro areas. But by 2004, that figure had dropped to 23 percent, as Hispanics increasingly moved to where the work is.
While nearly half of all Hispanics continue to live in 10 metro areas, there were by 2004 more than 900 counties with a Hispanic population of at least 5 percent, compared with just 538 such counties in 1990.
During that same period, 1990-2004, the number of states that were at least 5 percent Hispanic grew to 28 from 16.
A similar dispersion was occurring among the far smaller Asian population. Between 1990 and 2004, the number of counties that were at least 5 percent Asian doubled to 89 from 44.
“America still isn’t a melting pot coast to coast, but diversity is bubbling up in many parts of the country where it was not previously very evident,” Frey said.
In terms of demographic changes to come, Frey said, “This is just the tip of the iceberg.”
What Frey calls “melting pot metro areas” _ like Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Miami, New York and Washington _ are still intensely more diverse than the rest of the country.
But based on the evidence from the early years of this new century, he said, “The stark difference between melting pot and heartland America is beginning to blur.”

Written by jonathantilove

February 21, 2010 at 7:01 am

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