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Minorities Now Majority in Golden State

  • Latest Census Figures Reveal White Population Plummeting. Whites may now begin making demands for "minority rights" in California.
By P. Samuel Foner

The official census figures are in, and it's been confirmed that whites are no longer an ethnic majority in California, amounting to a little less than half the population of the most populous state.

That compares with nearly three-quarters only a decade ago, according to census figures released March 30.

Hispanic residents now make up nearly one-third of the state's population. The use of the word "residents" comes from the federal government and is deliberate. Estimates of how many Hispanics reside in California but are not citizens range as high as a third of the total.


Combined with a re percent increase in the state's Asian population, the figures confirmed California's status as the nation's most diverse big state and was viewed as a harbinger of changes in other populous states like Florida, New York and Texas.

California easily remained the most populous state, home to nearly one in 8 Americans, and its highest rates of population growth came in the inland valleys.

According to government figures, the fastest-growing county was Placer in the Sierra Nevada foothills northeast of Sacramento. It has become one of the many white havens around the state.

Over all, California gained slightly less than three million people, for a total of 33.9 million, compared with adjusted figures from the 1990 census, a growth rate of a little less than 10 percent.

The state's increase in people was more than the individual population of about half the states in the union.

More than 43 percent of Californians younger than 18 are now Hispanic, compared with about 35 percent a decade ago, the figures show.

The state's black population, meanwhile, declined by 3 percent, to 2.3 million, while the black population of the most populous county, Los Angeles, declined by 12 percent, to 920,899.

The state's white population declined by about 8 percent over the decade.

The national increase in the Hispanic population was 58 percent, while the increase was 33 percent in California. But nearly a third of all Hispanics in the nation live in California.

According to Dr. Paul Ong, director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and a professor of urban planning at the University of California at Los Angeles, California represents what many states are moving toward.

I don't think most states will end up at the same level of diversity," Ong said. "The truth of the matter is the rest of the country is going in this direction."

As a jurisdiction where non-Hispanic whites are in the minority, California joins New Mexico, Hawaii and the District of Columbia.


Most of the growth in the Asian population was because of immigration, according to the Census Bureau.

Asians account for almost 12 percent of the state's population, or 3.9 million residents, compared with 9 percent a decade ago. Some of the largest percentage increases for this group came in the north-central counties known as the Gold Country, where Chinese immigrants once flocked during the gold rush.

According to demographic experts, it was hardly surprising that some of the highest rates of population growth came in counties like Riverside and San Bernardino, the so-called Inland Empire east of Los Angeles, and in counties of the Central Valley, where farmland is increasingly giving was to cheap tract housing. Even in those areas, the Hispanic population rose, though not as swiftly.

One reason, according to experts, is because coastal California is already heavily settled from San Diego to San Luis Obispo by Hispanics, and many localities have or are passing ordinances to limit growth or suburban sprawl.

But that isn't the end of it. White majorities were only a blip in the history of the New World, according to cultural pundits on the West Coast.

According to Kevin Starr, the California state librarian and author of cultural histories of the state: "The Anglo hegemony was only an intermittent phase in California's arc of identity, extending from the arrival of the Spanish.

About the author

"P. Samuel Foner" is anom-de-plume for Liberty Lobby founder Willis A. Carto.