July 1, 2015

Share of counties where whites are a minority has doubled since 1980

majority-minority counties

Last week’s Census Bureau release of 2014 population estimates confirms that the U.S. is becoming ever more diverse, at the local level as well as nationally. As of last summer, according to a Fact Tank analysis, 364 counties, independent cities and other county-level equivalents (11.6% of the total) did not have non-Hispanic white majorities – the most in modern history, and more than twice the level in 1980.

That year – the first decennial enumeration in which the nation’s Hispanic population was comprehensively counted – non-Hispanic whites were majorities in all but 171 out of 3,141 counties (5.4%), according to our analysis. The 1990 census was the first to break out non-Hispanic whites as a separate category; that year, they made up the majority in all but 186 counties, or 5.9% of the total. (The Census Bureau considers Hispanic to be an ethnicity rather than a race; accordingly, Hispanics can be of any race.)

majority-minority countiesSince then, the nation’s Hispanic population has more than doubled, from 22.4 million to 55.4 million, powering the increase in majority-minority counties. Last year, 94 counties had Hispanic majorities – just over twice the number of majority-Hispanic counties in 1990 (45), and one more than the number of counties last year with non-Hispanic black majorities.

Another telling indicator of greater diversity: In 1990, there were only 29 counties where no single racial or ethnic group made up a majority of the population. Last year, 151 counties had no racial or ethnic majority.

While the single biggest Hispanic-majority county is in Florida (Miami-Dade, 66% of whose 2.7 million people are Hispanic), most are concentrated in the Southwest: 60 are in Texas, 12 are in New Mexico and 11 are in California. All but two of the 93 black-majority counties are in states of the old Confederacy (with 25 in Mississippi, 17 in Georgia and 11 in Alabama). In 26 counties, Native Americans or Alaska Natives (who are combined into one group for census purposes) comprise the majority; aside from eight lightly populated boroughs and census areas in Alaska, most of the other counties overlap with reservations in the Southwest and Great Plains.

All in all, non-Hispanic whites are less than a majority in four states – California, Texas, New Mexico and Hawaii – as well as the District of Columbia. In fact, in none of those places does a single racial or ethnic group have a majority: California has almost equal shares of Hispanics (38.6%) and non-Hispanic whites (38.5%); non-Hispanic whites are the plurality in Texas (43.5%); Hispanics in New Mexico (47.7%); blacks in D.C. (47.4%); and Asians in Hawaii (36.4%).

Topics: Demographics, Race and Ethnicity, Population Trends, African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Demographics

  1. Photo of Drew DeSilver

    is a senior writer at Pew Research Center.


  1. Shannon2 years ago

    This website was not able to answer my school project questions.

  2. Bryan Watson2 years ago

    “Project Aztlan,” proceeding. Yes!

  3. Lee Flamik2 years ago

    A question more than comment. Do you distinguish frontier counties from rural counties (from densely settled rural, semi – urban, urban counties)? If not, do urban researchers decide how they want to define counties? Does the Pew Research Center measure anyone from counties with less than 7 people per square miles? I’m just wondering if me or my neighbor are ever included or are we just lumped in together with whatever urban people think is frontier or rural. Thanks

  4. Mary Beth2 years ago

    There is nothing misleading about stating that more counties do not have a non-Hispanic white majority than in the past. Do the math. Further, underfunding schools reduces the opportunity for achievement for children in those schools, regardless of racial or ethnic background. Class time has been shifted from science, history, geography, music, and art to reading, math, and test prep. This is producing a population that is less educated. Many are unable to interpret what they read because they do not have enough background knowledge. Children think that science is just facts to memorize for the state test – because that’s what they get in their reading books. Science labs take time and cost money. No majority group in the region where I live. It’s not divisive. We are too busy for that.

  5. tim2 years ago

    When whites are non hispanic whites finally forced to share economic political military power equally…..then there will be less reason for people to see.things in racial terms….if whites are offended by this its only due to fear of being on equal terms…and its their hesitancy to cease oppressing the progress of other people’s ideas and productive capability to embetter themselves…if you’re mad…you’re blind and or indifferent to your own corruption

    1. Anonymous1 year ago

      We’ll see if people stop seeing things in ‘racial terms…’ One need only travel to eastern Europe for examples of why that will never be; for example, if you travel in northern Romania, the untrained eye will see many ‘white’ people who seem to be of the same race…But ask Romanian or a Hungarian and they will vehemently disagree. To most Americans, it will come as a shock to see ‘whites’ discriminating against other ‘whites,’ like Bosnians hating Croats, or Ukrainians hating Russians. Countless examples abound. We already see the beginnings of this in the States. Even if all of the States were brown, we’d still manage to find ways to fight and hate each other.

  6. Jaylani Adam2 years ago

    Great article. I wish there was list of counties that has Hispanic majority, Black majority and Native American majority. Also, what does it mean to have counties that has no single racial/ethnic majority? Who are these people? Please and thanks.

  7. Stephen Omara2 years ago

    When one looks at this map you realize that this is a misleading statement. It seems that it was produced to mislead some people. I also take exception to non-Hispanic white. All of these activities are tearing this nation apart and in that state we will never be able to bring this economy back. You would have spend better time point out the deficiency in the education systems utilized in the nation because that is the biggest problem we have. we lack educated people and that is answered by the H1B visa system bringing foreign workers in.

  8. Richard2 years ago

    Don’t like being referred to as “non-Hispanic White”. Why do you define me, or anyone elsE, by what I am not, rather than what I am.

    1. James E. Therrault2 years ago

      It appears that Pew has subscribed to the politically correct methodology where no one should be offended except for caucasians which of course is OK…

    2. Jason2 years ago

      Hispanics can be white, too. The distinction of “non-Hispanic” is meant to indicate that, though a person identifies him- or herself as of the race, “white,” they also identify themselves as either being Hispanic or not in terms of their ethnicity. “Non-Hispanic White” merely indicates that a person is not ethnically hispanic, and that they consider themselves racially white. To say, conversely, that one is “non-Germanic white” might indicate that they are from a Roman or Indian heritage—and this would be confusing in the context of the U.S. Census. The folks at the Census didn’t mean any offense, nor were they cow-towing to “Political Correctness.” They merely couldn’t think of a more descriptive designation in the context of U.S. demography. If you can, however, I’m sure they’d love to hear your input. But I think they settled on a term that would only (and only ever so slightly) offend the majority because the majority aren’t likely to be hurt by it in any meaningful way; other groups, on the other hand, may be negatively affected if the language were changed. Simply labelling white Hispanics as, for example, “Latino” would unnecessarily racialize huge groups of people who are clearly white. Hope this helps clear up things a bit. Best Regards, Jason

      1. Phil Chen1 year ago

        Great comment!