Census: Hispanics overtake whites to become California’s largest ethnic group

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Sacramento

It’s official: Hispanics are now the largest ethnic group in California.

About 15 million Hispanics lived in California on July 1, 2014, compared to about 14.9 million non-Hispanic whites, according to US Census Bureau estimates released late last week. The California Department of Treasury predicted in 2013 that Hispanics would outnumber whites in 2014; census figures confirm this prediction.

The new data represents a historical change over a short period of time. California has six times as many Hispanics today as it did in 1970. The number of non-Hispanic whites in the state has declined since 1970.

California Hispanics enjoy more influence today than ever before. They run tens of thousands of California businesses; they support dozens of newspapers, radio and television stations in Spanish; they make up a significant proportion of nearly every county in the state and hold political positions ranging from mayor of Long Beach to acting president of the state senate.

“This is an important milestone for California,” said Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic research at the Pew Research Center. “In many ways, California’s strong population growth has been driven by the growing Hispanic population.”

Two factors largely explain the growth of the Latin American population in California: immigration and high birth rates.

From the 1970s through the 1990s, millions of Mexicans, Guatemalans and other Latinos crossed the California border, some legally, some not. This immigration has slowed recently, especially during the last recession, several demographers said.

Over the past decade, most of the population increase among Hispanics in California has been due to a high number of births and a low number of deaths, several experts said. Latinos tend to be significantly younger than their neighbors; they are of an age where they are likely to have children.

“What’s primarily happening is the difference in birth rates between Latinos and non-Hispanic whites,” said Laura Hill, senior research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California.

Conversely, the birth rate among whites is relatively low as the population ages and young, non-Hispanic whites delay having children, Hill and others said.

“Along with that, we see people who have left, said Robert Suro, a professor at the University of Southern California and director of the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute, a research center that studies demographic diversity. “Someone who doesn’t want to live in an intensely multicultural area has now left the California coast. Most of them were non-Hispanic whites. Most of them were older adults.

California Latinos are largely concentrated in rural agricultural counties or Southern California cities. About 21% of people in the Sacramento area identify as Latino.

The vast majority of California Latinos are here legally and working, according to federal statistics. Legal immigrants make up more than 80% of the state’s Latino population, according to the latest figures from the US Department of Homeland Security. More than 90% of Latinos in California’s workforce are employed, according to the state’s Department of Employment Development.

“It’s a mistake to think that Latinos in California are just a bunch of undocumented people,” said Jim Gonzalez, president of Cien Amigos de Sacramento, a civic action group dedicated to improving relationships. California-Mexico. “The Latino community is a young and dynamic community. They are excellent consumers, constantly providing for their families, so in purely economic terms, this is good news.

Even so, many Latinos continue to face obstacles. The total income of Latino households in California was about one-third of the household income of non-Hispanic whites in 2013, according to census figures. Activists continue to work to increase voter turnout and social mobility among Hispanics.

When it comes to politics in California, “Latinos hang under their weight,” Suro said.

That could change. Due to population growth alone, Latinos in California will make up about 33% of voters in the 2040 presidential election, up from about 24% in 2012, said Mindy Romero, director of the California Civic Engagement Project at the UC Davis Center for Regional Change. .

“If they increase their turnout further, coupled with the increase in population, you’re going to see even greater increases in their political influence,” Romero said.

Latinos and other ethnic groups have also made California increasingly attractive to those looking to live in a diverse community, Suro said. Their growing presence helps the state’s economy, he added.

“Population change attracts a certain kind of people,” he said. It attracts “people looking for a fast-paced…new economy…multicultural kind of place”.

This story was originally published June 30, 2015 7:22 p.m.

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