Hope Yen, Yahoo! News, April 14, 2011
Hispanics now outnumber African-Americans for the first time in most U.S. metropolitan areas, shifting the political and racial dynamics in cities once dominated by whites and blacks.
Census figures released Thursday highlight the growing diversity of the nation’s 366 metro areas, which were home to a record 83.7 percent share of the U.S. population. The numbers from the 2010 count are already having a big effect on redistricting in many states, where district boundary lines are being redrawn based on population size and racial makeup.
Hispanics became the largest minority group in 191 metropolitan areas last year, their population lifted higher as blacks left many economically hard-hit cities in the North for the South and new Latino immigrants spread to different parts of the country. That’s up from 159 metro areas when the previous Census was taken in 2000, when Hispanics were most commonly found in Southwest border states.
The Census Bureau reported last month that overall Hispanic population jumped 42 percent in the last decade to 50.5 million, or 1 in 6 Americans. Blacks increased a modest 11 percent to 37.7 million, with declines particularly evident in big cities such as New York, Detroit, Cleveland, and St. Louis, Mo.
“A greater Hispanic presence is now evident in all parts of the country–in large and small metropolitan areas, in the Snowbelt and in the Sunbelt,” said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, who analyzed the census data. “From now on, local, state and national politicians will need to pay attention to Hispanics rather than treating blacks as the major minority,” he said.
Republicans generally hold the advantage in redrawing the political maps after taking control of legislatures in many states in last November’s elections. But many black legislators are pushing for strong enforcement of the federal Voting Rights Act from the Obama Justice Department, which must preapprove political maps for several states and ensure that minority voting power is not unreasonably diluted.
“The demographic phenomenon we’re seeing could cause some big concerns in terms of African-American seats,” said Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services, citing improvements in racial integration between blacks and whites in many metro areas that will make line-drawing more difficult. “It’s likely to make changes on how we view African-American seats.”
The figures released Thursday show that the white share of the population declined in all 366 metro areas, while all but five showed gains in Asian population shares–Honolulu (slipping from 45 percent to 43 percent), El Centro, Calif.; Sioux City, Iowa; Logan, Utah; and Kokomo, Ind.