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Latinos account for over half of the country's population growth

One of the biggest findings is the big growth in Latinos who identified as more than one race, while the number of Hispanics who identified as white dropped significantly.
Image: Sixth grade students line up to go into a classroom at Orchard Knob Middle School, in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Aug. 12, 2021.
Sixth grade students line up to go into a classroom at Orchard Knob Middle School, in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Thursday. Robin Rudd / Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP

Latinos drove the country’s demographic growth, shooting up to 62.1 million, the Census Bureau announced Thursday.

Latinos accounted for 51.1 percent of the country’s growth, rising to 18.7 percent of the U.S. population, according to numbers from the 2020 census. Latinos, or Hispanics, were 50.5 million and 16.3 percent of the national population in 2010. That means the Hispanic population grew by 23 percent from 2010 to 2020.

In contrast, the country’s white population alone is shrinking and aging, while people identifying as white in combination with some other race grew by 316 percent.

Fewer white Latinos, big increase in ‘more than one race’

The census data showed a drastic drop in the number of Latinos or Hispanics who identify as white, from 26.7 million in 2010 to 12.6 million in 2020.

The number of Hispanics or Latinos reporting more than one race more than quintupled, from 3 million to 20.3 million.

Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, said it is significant that the data showed the Hispanic population at 62.1 million. Many Latino leaders and groups have been putting it at about 60 million for a couple of years, he said by text message.

Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said in a statement, “Today’s data release from the 2020 Census demonstrates that the Latino community is a huge and increasing part of our nation’s future.”

Latinos have been undercounted in the past — the Census Bureau estimates by 1.5 percent. But last year, the fallout from failed attempts by former President Donald Trump to include a citizenship question in the census survey and to exclude immigrants without legal status from taking part — as well as the coronavirus pandemic — raised concerns about fewer responses and a possible undercount.

“Despite an unprecedented attempt by the disgraced Trump administration to manipulate the decennial Census specifically to reduce the count of Latinos, and despite a likely statistical undercount, the authoritative decennial Census count shows significant growth of the Latino population nationwide, and Latino population growth at a much higher rate than the nation’s non-Latino population,” Saenz said.

Vargas said that more study of the data is needed to determine the extent of an undercount of Latinos but that he was wary of presuming that the number was on point.

“We have been citing the 60 million population figure for Latinos for two years now,” he said. “I would have expected higher than 62.1 million.

“What is important is for us to peel the skin of the onion back on these metro areas that have grown. To what extent was those metro areas’ growth due to Latino population increase?” he said. “That’s where we’d expect some of the new congressional seats to be based.”

The numbers, which are critical for dividing up billions of dollars in federal funding for many programs that communities rely on, also are used by legislatures and commissions and to a degree, by local governments to segment populations into voting districts or such divisions as city council, county commission and school board districts.

The increase in diversity the data show is the source of the nation’s strength, said Clarissa Martinez de Castro, a vice president of UnidosUS, the country’s largest Latino advocacy group. She noted that 8 in 10 Latinos in the U.S. are American citizens.

“But despite our contributions to the country, the realities of our lives aren’t always recognized and worse, in too many cases, we are actively demonized,” she said in a statement.

Also notable in the data release are that Latinos are now the largest population group in California and that in Texas, Hispanics grew to 39.3 percent of the state’s population, nearly equal to non-Hispanic whites’ share of 39.7 percent.

Texas’ state demographer, Lloyd Potter, has said Hispanics are expected to outnumber non-Hispanic whites in the state by the end of the year or early next year.

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