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2020 census finds U.S. is more diverse than ever as white, rural America shrinks

The census data will be used to guide federal funding, as well as a hotly anticipated redistricting cycle.
/ Source: Associated Press

The U.S. is increasingly multiracial and urban, according to the 2020 census.

Population growth is being driven by people of color, and it is happening in metro areas, Census Bureau officials said Thursday. A whopping 33.8 million people identified as being of two or more races, up from 9 million in 2010, while people who identify as white alone fell by 8.6 percent. Some of the changes are likely to be due to revisions in how the census asks people about race.

"In the 2020 census for all race groups, the 'in combination' multiracial populations accounted for most of the overall changes in each racial category," said Nicholas Jones, director and senior adviser of race and ethnic research and outreach for the Census Bureau. "These changes reveal that the U.S. population is much more multiracial and much more racially and ethnically diverse than what we measured in the past."

The census data will be used to guide federal funding, as well as a hotly anticipated redistricting cycle, in which experts fear racial gerrymandering will dilute the political power of the country's growing number of voters of color.

The white population, meanwhile, is shrinking and aging: The "white alone" population shrunk by 8.6 percent, while the proportion of whites in combination with some other race grew by 316 percent. The under-18 population is increasingly diverse, too.

One exception? The share of the white population is growing in coastal communities in the Carolinas and Virginia, as well as in parts of Georgia and Alabama.

The data also reveal an increasingly urban U.S., showing continued migration from the South and the West and population losses in the Mississippi Delta, Appalachia and smaller counties.

Meanwhile, metro areas — from big cities to their surrounding suburbs — are growing. Phoenix is the fastest-growing city, growing by 11.2 percent in the last 10 years. New York had the largest population growth of any city this year, followed by Houston, with 200,000 more people.

Overall, the U.S. grew by 7.4 percent over the last decade, down from 9.7 percent in the previous census.

"The slowdown in population growth this past decade is evident," said Marc Perry, senior demographer for the Census Bureau. "Only the 1930s had slower growth."

The Associated Press contributed.