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Minorities Now Form Majority in One-Third of Most-Populous Counties

New York Times | August 9, 2007
SAM ROBERTS

In a further sign of the United States' growing diversity, nonwhites now make up a majority in almost one-third of the most-populous counties in the country and in nearly one in 10 of all 3,100 counties, according to an analysis of census results to be released today.

The shift reflects the growing dispersal of immigrants and the suburbanization of blacks and Hispanics pursuing jobs generated by whites moving to the fringes of metropolitan areas.

From July 1, 2005, to July 1, 2006, metropolitan Chicago edged out Honolulu in Asian population, and Washington inched ahead of El Paso in the number of Hispanic residents. In black population, Houston overtook Los Angeles.

“The new wave of immigration , along with its continued dispersal to the suburbs and Sun Belt, is transforming the places which are now being classified as multiethnic and majority minority,” said William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution .

“The new melting pots are not large international gateways,” Professor Frey said, adding, “Rather, many are fast-growing suburbs themselves.”

In 36 counties with more than 500,000 residents each, non-Hispanic whites are now a minority, up from 29 counties of that size in 2000.

From 2005 to 2006 alone, eight other mostly less-populous counties shifted to a majority of minorities, the Census Bureau said. They were Denver, Colo.; East Baton Rouge Parish, La.; Winkler, Waller and Wharton in Texas; Blaine, Mont.; Colfax, N.M.; and Manassas Park, Va., an independent city that is considered the equivalent of a county.

In a new study for the Population Reference Bureau, Mark Mather and Kelvin Pollard found that Hispanic people were increasingly attracted to job opportunities and lower costs outside major metropolitan areas.

“Between 2000 and 2006, the total population in small towns and rural areas increased by 3 percent, but the Hispanic population in these counties grew from 2.6 million to 3.2 million, a 22 percent increase,” the authors of the study wrote.

So far this decade, they added, “there are also new areas of growth, including exurban counties in the Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C., metropolitan areas, plus parts of Texas, central Florida, and a few other states.”

Since 2000, the Hispanic population more than doubled in metropolitan Winchester, Va.; Scranton, Pa.; Cape Coral, Fla.; and Hagerstown, Md.. The largest numerical increases were in metropolitan Los Angeles (576,630); Riverside, Calif., (545,152); Dallas (472,222); Houston (470,157); and New York (418,720).

Black populations declined in metropolitan New Orleans, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and New York. The biggest numerical gains were in Atlanta (370,470), Houston (142,364), Dallas (130,367), Miami (126,819) and Washington (114,915).

The growth in Atlanta, Houston and Dallas was attributed in part to survivors of Hurricane Katrina moving to those cities. The highest growth rates among Asian populations were in metropolitan Napa, Calif., and Ocala, Naples, Cape Coral and Port St. Lucie, Fla. The greatest numerical increases were in New York (309,773), Los Angeles (216,987), Washington (105,390), San Francisco (103,073) and Chicago (93,237).

Metropolitan Phoenix; Atlanta; Dallas; Houston; Las Vegas; Austin, Tex.; Charlotte; Portland, Ore.; and Raleigh, N.C., each recorded gains in non-Hispanic whites of more than 100,000 since 2000. The largest losses were registered by metropolitan New York (248,422), Los Angeles (193,109), San Francisco (127,151) and New Orleans (111,162).

Harris County, Tex., home to Houston, gained 121,400 minority residents from 2005 to 2006, the most of any county. Sixty-three percent of its residents were members of minorities.

Maricopa County, Ariz., home to Phoenix, recorded the biggest numerical increase in Hispanic residents (71,000) and also the biggest increase in non-Hispanic whites (35,500).

Harris County and East Baton Rouge Parish registered the biggest increases in black residents, 52,000 and 19,000, respectively.

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