The demographic makeup of the United States is changing rapidly, with a new report Thursday on the 2020 census expected to show that minorities accounted for all of America’s population growth in the last decade, and that for the first time the number of whites in the country has declined.
The Census Bureau in April said the once-every-10-years population count showed the U.S. had 331.4 million residents in 2020 and grew by just 7.4% since 2010. It was the slowest growth in any decade except during the Great Depression in the 1930s since the census was first started in 1790.
Although exact figures will not be known until the Census Bureau releases its demographic breakdown from last year’s count, early estimates are that 59.8% of the country’s population is now white, the first time that figure would fall below 60%, with 18.6% Hispanic, 12.5% Black and 9.1% Asian and other racial minorities.
In another first, a majority of the under-18 population could be non-white, presaging further demographic changes toward a bigger population of minorities in the decades to come.
Some demographers say whites could still be the largest single group in 2045, but will likely be outnumbered by a mix of other racial groups, including Latinos, Blacks, Asian Americans and others.
Half or more of the population growth among U.S. minorities in the last decade came from Hispanics, who have doubled their share of the country’s population over the last three decades.
The new census data will play an important role in U.S. politics as state lawmakers across much of the country and politically independent commissions in some states use the information to redraw the geographic lines for congressional and state legislative districts that in most cases will likely be used in elections through 2030.
Both Republicans and Democrats, where they control state legislatures, have often tried to draw the lines to their advantage, crowding as many of their opponents’ likely voters as they can into a handful of districts in hopes of winning more seats in the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives and the 50 state legislatures.
A small number of states, however, have adopted the use of independent commissions to redraw their legislative districts, hoping to make the once-a-decade process less political and fairer to both political parties.
In any case, the redrawing of districts each decade spawns numerous lawsuits from both parties alleging that the other has unfairly skewed the process in their favor, leaving it to judges to make final determinations of the exact geographic lines.
In November 2022, political control of Congress is at stake, with all 435 House seats up for election and Republicans needing only to pick up five seats to win control from the Democrats.
A third of the seats in the Senate, now divided evenly with 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats, are also up for grabs, but the census has no bearing on the voting since each state is represented by two senators, regardless of population.
In the House, demographic shifts in the U.S. will impact the number of House seats in 13 states, with Republican-controlled Texas gaining two seats, another five states each gaining another congressman and seven states losing one each.
The bigger population growth in southern states, where congressional representation is growing, would seem to favor Republicans, while lesser growth in northern states could mostly hurt Democratic election chances in upcoming years.