Ethnic Makeup of U.S. Increasingly Diverse as Mixed-Race Parentage Expands

The ethnic makeup of the world’s largest economy will be increasingly diverse, with more mixed- race Americans, according to the head of the U.S. Census Bureau.

“This is the decade of Tiger Woods and Barack Obama, where we talked about race combinations,” Robert Groves, director of the federal agency, said about forthcoming 2010 Census data in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. “I can’t wait to see the pattern of responses on multiple races. That’ll be a neat indicator to watch.”

The 2010 Census was the second consecutive decennial count to allow residents to identify as more than one race, and Groves said it’s likely that more respondents checked off multiple races.

The nation’s population grew 9.7 percent to 308,745,538 in 2010, from the previous decade, with the fastest gains coming in the South and West, the agency said this week. The release included only U.S. and state population figures, with more data on race, ethnicity, housing and other variables provided in February and March for all levels of geography.

“We’ll be taught something about our society, and that is new ethnic groups are going all over the country,” Groves said. “It’s not just the coasts and it’s not just urban areas.”

Weak Growth

The overall growth, driven by an increase in Hispanic residents, was the weakest in seven decades as the worst recession since the Great Depression stunted immigration. The latest U.S. population count shows the nation’s demographic center of gravity continued to shift, advancing a decades-old movement of people and political clout away from the Northeast and Midwest.

“This is the first decade, I point out, that the Western region is larger than the Midwest region,” Groves said. “The West region, these states that came last into the Union, sparsely settled, that’s filling up in a way that we’ve never seen before.”

When Obama was born in 1961, more than half the nation -- 54 percent -- lived in the Midwest and Northeast. Now, midway through his first term, 39 percent live there, the census data show.

Fresh Inflow

States including Texas, Florida and Arizona are witnessing a fresh inflow of people from within the U.S. and beyond the nation’s borders and will benefit from more representation in Washington. Ohio, New York and New Jersey are among the states that will lose seats in Congress.

Congressional seats are reapportioned every decade after completion of the census, with each district to have roughly the same number of people, about 710,000 in the next decade.

The Census Bureau will roll out in February and March detailed block-level data needed to redraw congressional districts. That information will be loaded into mapping software, and states will begin building their new districts over the following months.

In 2008, Hispanics voted for Obama by a ratio of more than 2-to-1, according to the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center in Washington. The role Hispanic population growth will play in the nation’s politics won’t be fully known until the new districts are drawn.

A New Look

The population counts mark the start of a new look at America from the census. The data will be used by the government to distribute more than $400 billion in annual federal funding, by businesses to identify markets, and by social scientists to examine the changing demographics.

“The business community can really profit from this small geographic detail,” Groves said. He said the agency’s American Fact Finder can be used by small business owners “to assemble data for the market area he or she is interested in attacking to make good decisions about what the market looks like.”

In the broader, global context, Groves said the slower pace of population growth in the U.S. is similar to Europe’s and those of other advanced economies.

“It turns out it’s happening in most developed societies around the world,” he said. “It has to do with lower fertility rates.”

The U.S. has the lowest median age of any of the Group of Seven nations, according to United Nations’ estimates for 2010. Youthfulness is one variable for future growth because younger people tend to have more children.

To contact the reporter on this story: Timothy R. Homan in Washington at thoman1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva in Washington at msilva34@bloomberg.net.

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