Ted Mellnik and Andrew Van Dam, Washington Post, November 4, 2022
Deep in the bowels of the nation’s 2020 Census lurks a quiet milestone: For the first time in modern American history, most White people live in mixed-race neighborhoods.
This marks a tectonic shift from just a generation ago.
Back in 1990, 78 percent of White people lived in predominantly White neighborhoods, where at least 4 of every 5 people were also White. In the 2020 Census, that’s plunged to 44 percent.
Large pockets of segregation remain, but as America’s White population shrinks for the first time and Hispanic, Asian, Black and Native Americans fuel the nation’s growth, diverse neighborhoods have expanded from urban cores into suburbs that once were colored by a steady stream of White flight from inner cities.
Across the 9,700 neighborhoods that became mixed in 2020, White population dropped by almost 300,000. Meanwhile, the number of Hispanics jumped by 1.5 million, the largest part of a 4.3 million increase in non-Whites in those neighborhoods.
This demographic shift has scrambled the nation’s politics, introducing new groups of often left-leaning voters into typically conservative White-dominated enclaves, according to Chris Maggio, a sociologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Department of Criminology, Law and Justice.
Maggio says the changes may be helping to stoke a backlash against immigration, especially among less-educated White voters, that has helped boost the political fortunes of former president Donald Trump. “Latino growth in particular is associated with increased Trump voting in places where there were few Latinos previously,” Maggio said.
More broadly, a new majority of all Americans, 56 percent, now live in mixed neighborhoods where neither White people nor non-Whites predominate — double the figure that lived in mixed neighborhoods in 1990, according to a Washington Post analysis of census data. By racial group, 56 percent of White Americans live in mixed neighborhoods, as do 55 percent of Hispanic Americans, 57 percent of Black people and 70 percent of Asian people.
William H. Frey, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and author of the book “Diversity Explosion,” traces the trend to sharply increased immigration from Latin America and Asia during the 1990s, as more Latinos and Asian Americans began to disperse to the suburbs and elsewhere. “This dispersion continued more dramatically in the 2000s,” Frey said. “Also in the 2000s, for the first time, more Black Americans lived in suburbs than cities.”
Racially mixed neighborhoods continue to be less common in small towns and rural areas, and are increasing the most in the suburbs. Across large metro suburbs and medium metros, the share of people in racially mixed neighborhoods jumped by double digits over the past decade to 59 percent.
Because of their large populations, those changing suburbs can influence close elections when their votes shift. In the presidential swing state of Georgia, for example, the rapidly diversifying Atlanta suburbs played a key role in President Biden’s 2020 victory. The suburban vote shifted toward Democrats by almost 214,000 votes, and Biden won the state by 12,000. Michigan and Wisconsin saw similar shifts.
Frey, the Brookings demographer, said age and race patterns point to more diversity ahead in growing neighborhoods.
“Not only are minorities growing faster than Whites in most parts of the country, but the younger segment of the population — those who make up most movers — are exceptionally diverse,” Frey said. “The 2020 Census shows that for the first time, minorities comprise more than half of the under-age-18 population — which suggests that most movers in future decades will be people of color.”