April 8, 2015

Reflecting a racial shift, 78 counties turned majority-minority since 2000

Where Minorities Became the Majority Between 2000 and 2013

In the United States as a whole, the white share of the population is declining as Hispanic, Asian and black populations grow. But the shift to a more diverse nation is happening more quickly in some places than in others.

From 2000 to 2013, 78 counties in 19 states, from California to Kansas to North Carolina, flipped from majority white to counties where no single racial or ethnic group is a majority, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data. (Our analysis includes only counties with a minimum population of 10,000 in 2013.)

Overall, 266 of these 2,440 counties are less than half white. However, many are in urban areas that together account for about one-third (31%) of the nation’s population, despite making up just 11% of U.S. counties with a minimum population of 10,000. These counties are concentrated in California, the South and the East Coast, bypassing much of the country’s middle section.

In 19 of the 25 biggest U.S. counties by population, whites make up less than half of the population. Of these, six that were majority white in 2000 are no longer so: San Diego, Orange, Riverside and Sacramento counties (all in California), plus Clark County, Nev., and Broward County, Fla. In addition, whites could soon become the minority in two more counties – Tarrant in Texas (Fort Worth) and Wayne in Michigan (Detroit), both of which are now 50% white.

Another way to highlight the nation’s changing demographics is to see how many counties flipped in reverse. From 2000 to 2013, just two counties went from minority white to majority white: Calhoun County in South Carolina and West Feliciana Parish in Louisiana, each with relatively small populations of about 15,000.

Counties with a White Minority Are Mostly in Sun BeltAmong the 78 counties that between 2000 and 2013 went from majority white to places where whites are no longer more than half of the population, 14 were at least 60% white in 2000. Of these counties, those in Georgia stand out for having four of the five biggest percentage-point swings in their white-population share.

For example, in Henry County (pop. 211,000 in 2013), 35 miles south of Atlanta, the population’s white share fell from 80.1% in 2000 to 49.8% in 2013. In Gwinnett County (pop. 859,000 in 2013), also near Atlanta, the population dropped from 67.0% white to 41.6% over the same time period.

This trend stems from a flat or declining number of whites in each of these four Georgia counties (Douglas and Rockdale are the other two), combined with a large and growing black population and a smaller Hispanic population that is also increasing in number. (In recent years, many blacks have moved to the Atlanta area from Northern states as part of a return migration to the South.) Nonetheless, in all but one of the four counties, the white population remains the largest single racial or ethnic group there.

Even though the white share of the U.S. population is falling, non-Hispanic whites remain the nation’s largest racial or ethnic group, accounting for 63% of all Americans. And whites are at least half of the population in 89% of the nation’s counties with at least 10,000 residents.

For a closer look at counties that recently flipped, see the sortable table below:

Counties That Have Shifted to Majority-Minority Since 2000

Notes: The non-Hispanic white share of the population in Chatham County, Ga., was 49.97% in 2013. Percentages and percentage point change are rounded to one decimal place and then sorted. Percentage point change between 2000-2013 calculated prior to rounding.

Category: Sortable Table

Topics: Population Trends, U.S. Census, Demographics, Race and Ethnicity

  1. Photo of Jens Manuel Krogstad

    is a senior writer/editor focusing on Hispanics, immigration and demographics at Pew Research Center.