It’s usually rewarding when a good reporter digs into a topic that helps explain why things are changing in America. Andrew Van Dam and Ted Mellnick of The Washington Post hit the jackpot with a Nov. 4 story going into great detail about information from the 2020 census that says mixed-race neighborhoods have become much more common across the country.
For the first time in modern American history, they wrote, a majority of white people — 56% — live in mixed-race neighborhoods. They correctly called that a tectonic shift from just 30 years ago, when only 22% of whites lived in a mixed-race area.
The Post analysis considers a neighborhood as predominantly single-race if at least 80% of its residents are the same race.
Interestingly, the percentage of black Americans living in a single-race neighborhood also has fallen significantly since 1990, when 32% lived in a black-majority area. Today that applies to only 14% of black Americans.
These changes are not a big surprise to anyone who follows American demographic data. Over the past several years, a number of reports have predicted that, by 2040 or 2050, no single race will represent a majority of the population, as whites have for two centuries.
America’s white population is growing slowly if at all. The Hispanic population is growing much more rapidly, and Asian and black populations also are growing. So with a lower percentage of whites, it’s no wonder that the 2020 census showed that, during the 2010s, another 9,700 neighborhoods across the country fit the definition of mixed race.
The story included charts that showed the changes in each state. It turns out that the Mississippi of 1990 was pretty far ahead of the curve. Probably because it has the nation’s largest percentage of black residents, Mississippi in 1990 had the nation’s fourth-highest rate of people living in mixed-race neighborhoods — 54%.
By the 2020 census, that had increased to 68%, but several more states caught up over the three decades.
Mississippi now ranks 12th, but the surprising leader is Oklahoma, where 93% of residents live in mixed-race neighborhoods — three times more than in 1990. (Interesting notes about that: Oklahoma’s Hispanic population in 2020 is five times higher than it was 30 years ago. Also, more Oklahoma residents are now willing to identify their American Indian heritage on their census form.)
The Post said racially mixed neighborhoods are increasing most rapidly in the suburbs, especially those around large and medium-sized cities. This is one reason that states like Georgia (Atlanta) and Arizona (Phoenix) have more competitive elections than they used to.
A Brookings Institute demographer said the country can expect these trends to continue. The 2020 census, he said, shows for the first time that minorities make up more than half of the population under 18 years old. Since younger people are more likely to move, the stage is set for further integration of neighborhoods.
— Jack Ryan, McComb Enterprise-Journal