A new report by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that whites are now in the minority in nearly one in ten U.S. counties. Experts say that increased diversity is helping to offset population losses in a number of rural areas, but it is also creating social tensions in some communities. V-O-A's Cindy Saine reports from Washington.
The population of the United States is becoming increasingly diverse, fueled by immigration and higher birth rates among Blacks and Hispanics. Nationally, the number of minorities topped 100 million for the first time in 2006, to make up about one third of the U.S. population.
The Hispanic population continued to grow fastest in large metropolitan counties in the South from 2000 to 2006. But Mark Mather of the Population Reference Bureau in Washington says minorities are increasingly willing to move beyond big cities.
"Minorities are dispersing throughout the United States," said Mather. "It used to be that especially Latinos, many of whom are immigrants, were concentrated in our large cities, in places like Los Angeles and Chicago and Miami and New York. But for the last five or ten years, we have seen more and more minorities moving into suburban areas, even ex-urban areas and some rural areas."
Mather says in a number of rural and small-town areas, communities have lost jobs in manufacturing, mining and other industries. He says most of the new jobs created in those areas tend to be low-wage positions in commercial agriculture, meatpacking and other sectors more attractive to recent immigrants. He said Hispanics have helped to offset losses in communities with declining populations.
But Mather said the demographic shift may also cause resentment and prompt a backlash against immigrants in some areas.
"Whenever newcomers come into a community where there hasn't been much diversity in the past I think it can create a clash of cultures," said Mather. "So many of the longtime residents may not be comfortable at first with people coming in who don't look like them, who speak a different language, so that can create some tensions."
Experts agree that diversity is here to stay in America. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that by 2050, minorities will account for half of all U.S. residents, making the minority a majority.