In a twist to notions of race identity, new 2010 census figures show an unexpected reason behind a renewed growth in the U.S. white population: more Hispanics listing themselves as white in the once-a-decade government count.
The shift is due to recent census changes that emphasise ‘Hispanic’ as an ethnicity, not a race.
While the U.S. government first made this distinction in 1980, many Latinos continued to use the ‘some other race’ box to establish a Hispanic identity.
In a switch, the 2010 census forms specifically instructed Latinos that Hispanic origins are not races and to select a recognised category such as white or black.
The result: a six percent increase in white Americans as tallied by the census, even though there was little change among non-Hispanic whites.
In all, the number of people in the ‘white alone’ category jumped by 12.1 million over the last decade to 223.6 million.
Based on that definition, whites now represent 72 percent of the U.S. population and account for nearly half of the total population increase since 2000.
Broken down by state, California and Texas were home to nearly half of Hispanics who identified as white, followed by Florida and New York.
Together, these four states comprised nearly two-thirds of the ‘white alone’ population who were Hispanic.
Of the total U.S. population in 2010 of 309 million people, 231 million were white, 74 per cent. A decade earlier, the white population was about 217 million, or 77 per cent of the almost 282 million total then.
In addition, the white population grew at a slower rate–six per cent–over the past decade than the total population, which increased by almost 10 per cent, according to census officials.
Much of the 14 million increase in the white population involved whites of Hispanic origin. For example, respondents could identify themselves as white Hispanics, black Hispanics or as Hispanics in any of the other racial categories.
‘The white population has become more diverse as evidenced by the growth of the Hispanic white population and the multiple-race white population,’ including black-white and white-Asian people, according to the 2010 census analysis released on Thursday.
Some demographers say the broadened white category in 2010 could lead to a notable semantic if not cultural shift in defining race and ethnicity.
Due to the impact of Hispanics, the nation’s fastest-growing group, the Census Bureau has previously estimated that whites will become the minority in the U.S. by mid-century. That is based on a definition of whites as non-Hispanic, who are now at 196.8million.
That could change, if the common conception of white were to shift.
‘What’s white in America in 1910, 2010 or even 2011 simply isn’t the same,’ said Robert Lang, sociology professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
He cited the many different groups of European immigrants in the early 20th century who later became known collectively as white.
He noted that today that could mean a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant in upstate New York or Jews and Italians in the lowest east side of Manhattan.
The Census news comes as it was revealed that for the first time in American history, the largest portion of children in poverty are not white.
According to a new figures, Hispanic children now make up the majority of those under 18 who live in poverty.
Even though this figure was released on Wednesday, the tension caused by increased racial diversity in American lower classes is having an effect on federal policies and funding.
‘We are really at a crossroads,’ said William H. Frey, a representative from a Washington think-tank called the Brookings Institution.
The number of Hispanics in the U.S. is increasing, and because of the bad economy, the group’s presence among the country’s poorest residents is exponentially increasing.
The Pew Center says that even though Hispanic adults only make up 16.3 per cent of the total U.S. population, Hispanic children make up 23.1 per cent of the country’s children.
Their presence is even larger when only those in poverty are examined; there, Hispanic children make up the majority- 37 per cent.
The disparity is a direct effect of a high birth rate among Hispanics.
The terrible economy then did its part.
Hispanics were disproportionally hit by the recession, with an unemployment rate of 11.1 per cent as compared to the national rate of 9.1 per cent.
The number of Hispanic children in poverty jumped in 2010- the most recent available data- by a half million, making the total 6.1 million children.
Due to calculations, however, it is more likely for a black child to be poor because they have a higher rate of poverty- 39.1 per cent as compared to 35 per cent for Hispanics- but there are more Hispanic children on the whole, tilting the statistics so that Hispanics take the unhappy title. The report, released by the Pew Center, says there are 4.3 million black children in poverty as compared to 6.1 Hispanic children.
Earlier this year, the issue of the diversification of America’s poor came to the forefront of political debate with the December failure of the DREAM Act federally, which would have allowed illegal immigrants to receive privately funded scholarships to attend the state’s public colleges and universities.
The bill passed in California and Maryland, but it seems unlikely to pass nationally because a Republican majority took control of the House of Representatives since the last vote.
‘These new young immigrants and their children need a pathway to the middle class–good educations, affordable housing and jobs–at the same time federal and state budgets are strapped for funds,’ Mr Fey said.
‘While we face tough choices, the quality of our future labour force depends on meeting their needs.’
The future is bound to bring big changes as well, with census projections expecting whites to make up a minority of the population for the first time in 2042.
Earlier projections put that turning point eight years later, but a surge in Hispanic population due to increased immigration and high birth rates moved the date up significantly.
By 2050, the percentage of Hispanics in America will double its present 15 per cent to 30 per cent.