‘Explosion of Diversity’ Sweeps U.S., Census Shows

AP, August 15, 2006

America’s growing diversity has reached nearly every state.

From South Carolina’s budding immigrant population to the fast-rising number of Hispanics in Arkansas, minority groups make up an increasing share of the population in every state but one, according to figures released Tuesday by the Census Bureau.

“This is just an extraordinary explosion of diversity all across the United States,” said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. “It’s diversity and immigration going hand in hand.”

West Virginia is the exception, with its struggling economy and little history of attracting immigrants. (See state-by-state comparisons)

Frey said states that attract large numbers of immigrants can consider it a “badge of economic success.” There have, however, been backlashes.

“In some places it will be a while before they are accepted by the locals,” Frey said. “All we have to do is look at this immigration debate.”

Immigration policy is a big issue in this year’s midterm congressional elections, and the new data help explain why.

Immigrants — legal and illegal — make up a growing portion of the population in 46 states and the District of Columbia. Nationally, they went from 11.1 percent of the population in 2000 to 12.4 percent last year.

The 2005 figures are from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which is replacing the “long form” on the 10-year census. Starting this year, the annual survey of about

3 million households provides yearly data on communities of 65,000 or larger. By 2010, it will provide annual multiyear averages for the smallest neighborhoods covered by the 10-year census.

The data released Tuesday cover race, immigration, education and age characteristics. Economic and housing data will be released in the coming weeks.

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West Virginia, meanwhile, was one of only two states in which the percentage of white people grew. The other was Hawaii, where whites are an increasing minority.

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