New census data should reveal a more diverse America

Nearly 120 years ago, African-American domestic workers moved to the Como neighborhood of Fort Worth, Texas, where they staged 4th of July parades, frequented Horne Street stores, and lived for generations. in what appeared to be a small town within the big city.

But many young families began to move at the end of the last century, leaving behind small frame houses ready for renovation. An economic boom in Fort Worth helped make this possible. Hispanics who came from Mexico and Central America to work in construction, manufacturing, and services moved in, renovated homes, and helped revitalize the area.

The newcomers have changed not only the Como neighborhood but also Tarrant County, one of the many places in the United States where white residents are no longer the majority. No racial or ethnic group does.

New Census Bureau data due for release Thursday will map the extent of this demographic transformation over the past decade. The numbers are expected to show dozens of counties in 18 states, mostly in the south and southwest, that no longer have a majority racial or ethnic group. The non-Hispanic white population is expected to decline for the first census on record.

Estimates suggest that about 113 million people – a third of all Americans – now live in a plurality county.

Census figures will clearly show the impact of expanding diversity: virtually all population growth in the United States is among people of color, groups long considered racial or ethnic minorities. But when there is no majority, this label becomes obsolete.

How the United States deals with its growing diversity, whether it’s creating new barriers or breaking down old ones, “is a hot topic, and it will be a hot topic for some time to come. This is how we define equality in America, ”said Estrus Tucker, a diversity consultant who is black and a lifelong Fort Worth resident.

A first batch of census figures released in April showed that U.S. population growth had slowed to a rate not seen since the Great Depression. Figures released Thursday will offer details of precisely where white, Asian, black and Hispanic communities have thrived.

Data released this week arrives more than four months behind schedule due to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Data from previous censuses showed growth in the United States driven by immigration, but that is now only one factor. Over the past decade, new arrivals from overseas have slowed down and then virtually disappeared during the pandemic. Instead, birth rates are driving the change: The share of births to Hispanic and Asian women has increased during this century while it has declined for white women.

Estimates suggest the new figures could show that less than half of U.S. residents under the age of 18 are white, while more than three-quarters of those over 65 are white.

The ripple effects of these changes can be complex, said Manuel Pastor, professor of sociology at the University of Southern California. The pastor says he believes the anxiety of an aging white population over racial and ethnic changes has contributed to the rise of former President Donald Trump.

“You have an aging white electorate that doesn’t seem willing to invest in a young population that propels people to success – schools, infrastructure,” Pastor said. “There is a part of the population – myself included – who are delighted to see Korean taco trucks appear … But, on the other hand, there are people who feel great dislocation and loss of life. ‘personal identity. “

For some, the growing population of people of color means a new political empowerment. Tarrant County was once one of the most Republican major city counties in the country, but recent elections show how demographics are moving it towards Democrats. Last year, President Joe Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the county in nearly half a century. As a Republican mayor was elected earlier this year, a diverse group of young Democrats stormed Fort Worth City Council.

“We’re finally getting to a point where we have people who represent us – who are us,” said Pamela Young, who is black and is the lead criminal justice organizer for United Fort Worth, a grassroots community organization. . “It gives me so much hope and joy.”

Data released this week will be used to redraw parliamentary and legislative constituencies, triggering a series of partisan fights for representation in an increasingly diverse nation. The stakes are especially high in Texas and Florida, two Republican-led states that secure new seats in Congress, where growth is pulled into Democratic-leaning urban areas.

Some researchers are not convinced that the decline in the white population as defined by the census form is significant. Large numbers of Hispanics identify as white, and a growing portion of the population is of mixed race and ethnicity. This is an indication that “socially constructed boundaries are blurring,” Princeton sociologist Marta Tienda said.

“This is a positive development, so the narrative of the declining white population is statistical nonsense,” Tienda said.

To that end, the Census Bureau decided this year to forgo the use of the terms “majority” and “minority” to measure diversity, saying these words limit its ability “to illustrate the complex racial and ethnic diversity of the American population.” . Instead, the agency uses several new metrics that show how diverse communities are through a clue, map, and score.

The increase in counties without a racial or ethnic majority group over the past decade has occurred primarily in counties that are home to some of the nation’s fastest growing cities – Austin, Charlotte, Fort Worth and Tampa. Yet this was also evident in more rural counties that lost population, such as Texas County, Oklahoma.

The remote enclave county of the state had a beef packing plant that employed a predominantly white workforce. But that factory closed and employment shifted to a pork processing plant that brought in workers from Latin America and, increasingly, from Africa and other parts of the world.

As the white population dwindled and the shops on the main street of its largest city, Guymon, closed their shutters, predominantly Latin American neighborhoods exploded. Today, the county is made up of 47% Latinos, 5% Blacks and 43% White. Several dozen languages ​​are spoken in its overflowing schools. A third of its 20,000 inhabitants are under 18 years old.

The school district is seeking approval of a $ 70 million bond measure to fund new buildings, and supporters know they have an uphill battle in Tory County, where older white residents still dominate an electorate who rejected several previous bond measures.

“I literally made people say ‘I won’t post this bond because these people don’t deserve my tax money,’ said Julie Edenborough, director of federal programs for the Guymon school district.

But, a possible sign of a change in attitude, a $ 20 million bond measure was narrowly passed in 2016. Several long-time residents appreciated the new arrivals. “We would collapse without them,” said Melyn Johnson, director of Main Street Guymon, a group of companies. “For everything to continue, we have to have people. “

In Fort Worth, there is an energy and optimism found in the tight-knit neighborhood of Como, not only because of the influx of new Hispanic residents, but also because of a recent pledge by the city to spend 3, $ 2 million for improvements to streets, sidewalks and lampposts.

“You see the diversity in so many parts of the county,” Tucker said. “You see glimpses of this diversity changing in our elected offices. Maybe not enough, but it’s coming.

Article by Mike Schneider and Nicholas Riccardi, Associated Press

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