Ultimately, of course, demography is destiny, but if significant changes in the makeup of the population fail in the short term to change the status quo, those changes do tell us a lot about our current civic unrest, including acts of domestic terrorism.
The Brookings Institution has issued an analysis of the most recent census and it points to the demographic realities that have triggered the racist backlash we are experiencing.
The big picture shows healthy growth in our larger cities–what the report calls “major metro areas”–despite the fact that the nation as a whole experienced historically low growth over the past decade. (The decline in the nation’s overall growth rate is attributed to reduced immigration, a decline in fertility and an increased death rate due to an aging population.)
The disproportionate growth of urban America was characterized by increased racial and ethnic diversity, especially among youth populations–a data point that undoubtedly feeds the grievances of MAGA Republicans. Much of that metropolitan growth occurred in the South.
Reflecting changes from earlier decades, six of the fastest-growing metro areas in 2010-2020 were located in the traditional Sun Belt magnet states of Texas (Austin, Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio) and Florida (Orlando and Jacksonville), along with three southeastern metro areas (Raleigh, N.C., Charlotte, N.C., and Nashville, Tenn.) as well as Seattle.
Brookings notes that every metro area with greater than 10% growth is located in either the South or West except three: Columbus, Indianapolis, and Minneapolis-Saint Paul. I was pleasantly surprised to find Indianapolis in that category. (The rapidly changing populations of Florida and Texas may help to explain the increasingly frantic efforts of Abbott and DeSantis to energize their GOP bases before the demographic shift overtakes them…)
The most politically potent information was the data on increased diversity.
The 2010-2020 decade continued the nation’s “diversity explosion” that was already evident in the 2010s. This was especially the case among the nation’s major metro areas. While people of color (those identifying as Latino or Hispanic, Black, Asian American, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, Native American/Alaska Native, or as two or more races) together comprise more than two-fifths (42%) of the total U.S. population, they now comprise over half (50.3%) of the combined populations of major metro areas.
The impact of this minority concentration is most apparent in 20 of the 56 major metro areas, where people of color now comprise more than half of the 2020 population. This was the case for only 14 major metro areas in 2010 and just nine in 1990. The newcomers to this category are metro area Dallas, Orlando, Fla., Atlanta, Sacramento, Calif., New Orleans, and Austin, Texas. As shown in Map 2, most of these are located in California and Texas, where the greatest minority populations tend to be Latino or Hispanic. Metro area Chicago is close to being next in tipping to minority-white status.
Rising diversity is not specific only to these minority-white metro areas. Each of the nation’s 56 major metro areas registered a decline in its white population share since 2010 and, in 41, the decline was 5 percentage points or more. Metro area Seattle led all others, with a decline from 68% white in 2010 to 58% in 2020. Las Vegas experienced the largest 20-year change, from 60% white in 2000 to 39% in 2020.
Brookings also looked at the data on neighborhood segregation, finding limited improvement nationally. Milwaukee, interestingly, remains the most highly segregated city in the U.S.
Another very troubling finding was an absolute decline in the youth population.
The 2020 census data allows for an assessment of the size and recent changes in the nation’s under-age-18 population (referred to here as the “youth” population).
An especially noteworthy finding is the overall decline in this population by over 1 million during the 2010- 2020 decade. In a country that is rapidly aging, such an absolute decline in the youth population represents a demographic challenge for the future.
As White American fertility has declined, the percentage of the youth cohort that is White has also declined.
The 2020 census shows that more than half of the youth population in 37 major metro areas are people of color, up from 24 in 2010 and 16 in 2000. The rise of youths of color is a key element of the changing demographics of America’s under-age-18 population. These groups have not only stemmed a sharp decline in the youth population but, as they age, will be driving most of the growth in the nation’s labor force.
There’s lots more data and many charts at the link, but the overall picture is clear: America is becoming more urban; it is also aging and rapidly diversifying. Many older White Americans perceive these demographic shifts as an assault–not just on their status as the “real Americans,” but on their very concept of what America is.
They’re terrified and they’re angry. And they’ll vote for candidates who promise to prevent the inevitable.