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By TODD S. PURDUM
March 30, 2001
LOS ANGELES For the first time in the modern era, non- Hispanic whites are officially a minority in California, amounting to a little less than half the population of the most populous state, compared with nearly three-quarters only a decade ago, according to census figures released today.
Hispanic residents now make up nearly one-third of the state's population.
The change was long expected, the result of high Hispanic birth rates and decades of immigration, but combined with a 43 percent increase in the state's Asian population, it confirmed California's status as the nation's most diverse big state and was viewed as a harbinger of changes in other populous states like Florida, New York and Texas.
California easily remained the most populous state, home to nearly one in 8 Americans, and its highest rates of population growth came in the inland valleys least associated with swimming pools and movie stars. The fastest-growing county was Placer, a picturesque area in the Sierra Nevada foothills northeast of Sacramento that was the scene of the gold rush in 1849 and that recently became a commuter haven; its population grew 42 percent in the last decade.
Over all, California gained slightly less than three million people, for a total of 33.9 million, compared with adjusted figures from the 1990 census, a growth rate of a little less than 10 percent. The state's increase in people was more than the individual populations of about half the states in the union.
More than 43 percent of Californians younger than 18 are now Hispanic, compared with about 35 percent a decade ago, the figures show.
Hispanic is a demographic group, not a race, and Hispanics may be of any race.
"The Anglo hegemony was only an intermittent phase in California's arc of identity, extending from the arrival of the Spanish," said Kevin Starr, the state librarian and author of cultural histories of the state.
"The Hispanic nature of California has been there all along, and it was temporarily swamped between the 1880's and the 1960's," Mr. Starr said, "but that was an aberration. This is a reassertion of the intrinsic demographic DNA of the longer pattern, which is part of a California-Mexico continuum."
The state's black population declined by 3 percent, to 2.3 million when some of the residents who listed themselves as mixed-race are counted as black, while the black population of the most populous county, Los Angeles, declined by 12 percent, to 920,899.
The state's white population declined, too, by about 8 percent over the decade. Because that figure was so high, blacks maintained almost the same percentage of the population, roughly 7 percent, as in 1990.
A comparison of census data by The New York Times used adjusted figures for 1990 provided by the United States Census Bureau that added an estimate of residents, mostly members of minorities, who were believed to have been missed in that count. The figures for 2000 have not been adjusted for those people, but last year's census is considered more accurate.
The national increase in the Hispanic population was 58 percent, significantly higher than the 33 percent increase in California. But the number of new Hispanic residents here dwarfs the number in other states; nearly a third of all Hispanics in the nation live in the Golden State.
"California certainly represents what many states are moving toward," said Dr. Paul Ong, director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and a professor of urban planning at the University of California at Los Angeles.
"I don't think most states will end up at the same level of diversity," Dr. Ong said. "The truth of the matter is the rest of the country is going in this direction, but it won't become this, in the same way that New York at the beginning of the last century represented an important trend, but the rest of the country didn't become New York."
Of California's 2.7 million new Hispanic residents, the majority were the result of births outpacing deaths among Hispanic residents, state demographers said. Less than one-fifth of the growth was from immigration, recent state figures indicated. As a jurisdiction where non-Hispanic whites are in the minority, California joins New Mexico, Hawaii and the District of Columbia.
By contrast, most of the growth in the Asian population was because of immigration. Asians account for almost 12 percent of the state's population, or 3.9 million residents, compared with 9 percent a decade ago. Some of the largest percentage increases for this group, too, came in the cluster of north-central counties known as the Gold Country, where Chinese immigrants once flocked to the pan for gold.
With coastal California already heavily settled from San Diego to San Luis Obispo, and with many localities passing ordinances to limit growth or suburban sprawl, it was hardly surprising that some of the highest rates of population growth came in counties like Riverside and San Bernardino, the so-called Inland Empire east of Los Angeles, and in counties of the Central Valley, where farmland is increasingly giving way to affordable tract housing. Even in those areas, the Hispanic population rose, though not as swiftly.
The cross-cutting demographic trends of coastal urban populations that are increasingly Hispanic and Asian, groups that in recent years have trended strongly Democratic, and more white, moderate-to-conservative residents inland, are posing new challenges for politicians.
"It means that either party to be successful statewide has to be able to appeal to the moderate to conservative voters that seem to be constituting much of the growth in California's inland areas," said Garry South, chief political adviser to Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat. "And Republicans are not going to be successful statewide unless they can come up with some way to rebuild and repair the damage they've done among Asian and Latino voters with the anti-immigration crusades of the 1990's."
By JIM YARDLEY
March 25, 2001
HOUSTON After a decade of enormous growth, particularly among Hispanics, Texas may soon become, after California, the second big state in which non-Hispanic whites are no longer a majority.
And the demographic shift is raising an obvious, if contentious, question: Will Texas become more like California politically, too?
In the national political calculus, Texas is often a conservative counterweight to California, which is increasingly liberal.
But new census data show that the same demographic trends that have reshaped California, notably the influx of Hispanics, are happening in Texas, and faster than expected. To the surprise of some demographers, Hispanics have already become the largest ethnic or racial group in Texas' two biggest cities, Houston and Dallas.
The political impact could be significant, particularly as both parties are beginning what will probably be a protracted fight over legislative and Congressional redistricting. Texas Democrats, in particular, are already planning to make Hispanics a centerpiece of their 2002 election strategy, including possibly running a Hispanic candidate for governor.
"The political ramifications are excellent for the Texas Democratic Party," said Molly Beth Malcolm, chairwoman of the state party. "Very definitely the trend is that Texas is becoming more diverse."
Texas Republicans do not dispute the growth of the Hispanic population, but they are quick to point out the other indisputable demographic trend, namely the dramatic growth in the largely Republican suburbs of Dallas, Austin and Houston. Currently, Republicans dominate the Texas political landscape, holding all 29 statewide elected offices. Plus, they say, Democrats do not have a monopoly on Hispanic voters.
"The Democrats will claim Hispanics as their own even when the reality is that the growth of Hispanics within the Republican Party is significant," said Susan Weddington, chairwoman of the Texas Republican Party.
Dr. Steve Murdock, the state demographer, said the census data revealed a vivid portrait of how Texas was being transformed. With 20.8 million people, Texas is now the second largest state in the nation, after California. And of the 3.8 million new residents since 1990, 2.3 million, or 60 percent, were Hispanic. This influx pushed the Hispanic share of the overall population to 32 percent in 2000 from 25 percent in 1990.
By comparison, the percentage of non-Hispanic white Texans fell to 53 percent in 2000 from 60 percent in 1990. At nearly 12 percent, the black population has risen very slightly.
Originally, demographers had predicted that Texas would become a majority-minority state by 2008, but the unexpectedly fast growth of Hispanics has pushed up that date to 2004. Dr. Murdock said that the state's minority growth could be felt in every major city and even most suburbs. Hispanics are the largest demographic group in four of the state's five largest cities: Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and El Paso. In the state's suburban counties, which are still largely white, the percentage of minorities has risen quickly, as well.
In California, this same sort of explosive growth in the minority population during the mid-1990's led then-Gov. Pete Wilson to stake his political career and presidential ambitions on an anti-immigrant agenda that ultimately energized many California minorities, who have helped swing the state to the Democrats.
In Texas, then-Gov. George W. Bush took an opposite tack, rejecting harsh rhetoric toward immigrants and courting Hispanic voters, if largely through symbolic gestures.
"The legacy of then-Gov. Bush is that Hispanics were incorporated into our party and our agenda," said Ted Delisi, a Republican political consultant involved in the redistricting fight. Mr. Bush's successor, Gov. Rick Perry, has pointedly emphasized Hispanic issues as he prepares for the 2002 race. Another top Republican, State Senator David Sibley, held a recent legislative committee meeting in Spanish.
Richard Murray, a University of Houston political scientist, agreed that the Texas Republican Party "has really gotten the message that they don't want to go the way of California."
"But in substance, the party is still dominated by white, conservative Anglos," Mr. Murray said.
Antonio Gonzalez, president of the Southwest Voter Registration Project, a nonprofit group that registers Hispanic voters, said that there were two million registered Hispanic voters in Texas and that for the first time one million of them voted in the 2000 elections, about 16 percent of the total electorate. He predicted that continued population gains and voter registration efforts could push the Hispanic share to more than 20 percent of the total in 2002, with Democrats being the primary beneficiary.
"Bush, in a way, slowed the shift," Mr. Gonzalez said. "But now that he's out, you have a conservative Republican Party that is not very sympathetic on Hispanic issues."
The 2002 elections are already shaping up as a showdown. Democratic officials, thankful that neither Mr. Bush nor the popular Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison will be on the ticket, are placing their hopes for governor on an untested multimillionaire businessman, Tony Sanchez.
Mr. Sanchez has never run for office and contributed heavily to Mr. Bush, who appointed him to the state board overseeing the University of Texas system. But Mr. Sanchez is said to leaning toward running and reportedly would spend $10 million to $30 million of his own money, a sum that Democrats hope would help carry other candidates further down the ticket.
"If Tony Sanchez is running on the Democratic ticket, forget it," said Mr. Gonzalez. "Latinos are going to go wild."
It is all speculation and conjecture, as yet, and Republicans, of course, are very skeptical. "Those are huge rose-colored glasses for a party that has been in disfavor in this state for numerous election cycles," said Mrs. Weddington, the Republican leader.