Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

In 2014, Latinos will surpass whites as largest racial/ethnic group in California


According to California Governor Jerry Brown’s new state budget, Latinos are projected to become the largest single racial/ethnic group in the state by March of this year, making up 39% of the state’s population. That will make California only the second state, behind New Mexico, where whites are not the majority and Latinos are the plurality, meaning they are not more than half but they comprise the largest percentage of any group.

California’s demographers also project that in mid-2014, the state’s residents will be 38.8% white non-Hispanic, 13% Asian American or Pacific Islander, 5.8% black non-Hispanic, and less than 1% Native American. But the state’s demographics in 2014 are very different from what they had been. In 2000, California’s 33.9 million residents were 46.6% white non-Hispanic, 32.3% Latino, 11.1% Asian American or Pacific Islander, 6.4% black non-Hispanic and about 1% Native American. In 1990, white non-Hispanics made up more than half (57.4%) of the state’s then 29.7 million residents, while 25.4% of Californians were Latino, 9.2% were Asian American or Pacific Islander, 7.1% were black non-Hispanic and about 1% were Native American.

This 2014 demographic milestone will arrive about eight months later than the state originally expected. Last year, California’s Department of Finance demographers projected that the Latino population would match the non-Hispanic white population in size by mid-2013.

But as birth rates among Hispanics have slowed (as they have nationally for Latinos and the overall U. S. population with the recession), the state this month readjusted its projection to March 2014. When this milestone occurs, it will mark the first time since California became a state in 1850 that Latinos are the Golden State’s single largest racial or ethnic group. 

With more than 14 million Hispanic residents, California has the nation’s largest Hispanic population. But only in California and New Mexico will Hispanics be the largest racial or ethnic population (in New Mexico, Hispanics make up 47% of the state’s population).

Texas may be next. According to Pew Research Center tabulations from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, in 2012 there were 10 million Latinos and 11.6 million non-Hispanic whites living in Texas, making up 38.2% and 44.4%, respectively, of the state’s 26.1 million residents. By contrast, in 2000, Latinos made up 31.9% and white non-Hispanics made up 52.4% of the state’s 20.8 million residents. These numbers indicate the Hispanic population is growing more quickly than the non-Hispanic white population—since 2000 Hispanics have made up 63.5% of the Lone Star state’s population growth.

After Texas, though, it’s unlikely any other state will follow any time soon. Florida’s 4.5 million Hispanics—the third largest Hispanic state population—make up just 23.2% of all Floridians, while white non-Hispanics make up 56.8%. In Arizona, Hispanics make up 30.2% of the state’s population, and non-Hispanic whites make up 56.9%. And in Nevada, the state’s 753,000 Hispanics make up 27.3% of the state’s population compared with white non-Hispanics’ 52.8%.

What’s the only other state where non-Hispanic whites are not the largest racial or ethnic group?  Hawaii. The Rainbow state is the only state in which Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders are the largest racial/ethnic group. Of the state’s 1.4 million residents, just 22.8% are non-Hispanic white, but nearly half (46.1%) are Asian American or Pacific Islander.