Prior to the release of the data, the expectation had been that by 2045, America would be “majority minority,” meaning that in 25 years, non-Hispanic whites will no longer be in the majority. By 2050, it was thought that the U.S. could have more Spanish speakers than any other country.
If anything, the new Census data is showing that diversity in America is accelerating much more quickly than anticipated. There's now a 61 percent chance that two Americans chosen at random are from different races or ethnicities.
"Our analysis of the 2020 Census results show that the US population is much more multiracial, and more racially and ethnically diverse than what we measured in the past," said Nicholas Jones, the director and senior advisor of race and ethnic research and outreach in the US Census Bureau's population division.
Here are five key takeaways from the 2020 Census:
1. The non-Hispanic white share of the population is shrinking faster than anticipated. The non-Hispanic white share of the population fell to 57.8 percentage points, nearly two points lower than expected, as more Americans identified as multiracial.
That drop, of 2.6 percent, was driven in part by the aging of the white population — the median age was 44 in 2019, compared with 30 for Hispanics — and a long-running decline in the birthrate.
INFOGRAPHIC: How America Will Look in 25 Years
The nation has been growing more diverse for decades, but recently the pace has accelerated. Non-Hispanic white people accounted for 46 percent of population growth in the 1970s, 36 percent in the 1980s, 20 percent in the 1990s, but just 8 percent of the growth in the first decade of this century and now zero in the 2010s.
Non-Hispanic White Americans continue to be the most prevalent group in every state, except for in California, Hawaii and New Mexico, as well as in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
In California, the Hispanic or Latino population officially became the largest racial or ethnic group in the state for the first time. The Hispanic or Latino community now represents 39.4 percent of Californians, an increase from 37.6 percent in 2010.
2. Nearly one in four Americans now identifies as either Hispanic or Asian. The new data shows that Hispanics accounted for about half the country’s growth over the past decade, up by about 23 percent. The Asian population grew faster than expected — up by about 36 percent, a rise that made up nearly a fifth of the country’s total.
Now, about 98 percent of Americans live in a county with an increasing number of Latinos, and 95 percent live in a county where the Asian population is on the rise. Diversity is rising in 19 out of every 20 counties.
The Black population grew by 6 percent, an increase that represented about a tenth of the country’s growth. Americans who identified as non-Hispanic and more than one race rose the fastest, jumping to 13.5 million from 6 million.
3. The single biggest population increase was among people who identified as more than one race. This category that first appeared on census forms 20 years ago, and now is the fastest-growing racial and ethnic category.
People who identify as white now make up 58 percent of the population, down from 64 percent in 2010, and 69 percent in 2000.
“We are in a weird time demographically,” said Tomás Jiménez, a sociologist at Stanford University who writes about immigrants, assimilation and social mobility. “There’s more choice about our individual identities and how we present them than there has ever been. We can presume far less about who somebody is based on the boxes they check compared to previous periods.”
In what appears to be a big shift in how Hispanics think of their racial identity, one third of Hispanics reported being more than one race, up from just 6 percent in 2010. That means that Hispanics are now nearly twice as likely to identify as multiracial than as white.
Hispanic origin is counted as an ethnicity, and is a distinct category from race. But Hispanics can also check race boxes.
Richard Alba, a sociologist who has studied demographics and the fluidity of racial categories, said the rise in multiracial Americans was a logical extension of the substantial mixing that has been happening for years in the United States.
Among Asians and Hispanics, more than a quarter marry outside their race, according to the Pew Research Center. For American-born Asians, the share is nearly double that.
The jump in the multirace category is partly to do with the Census Bureau collecting more detailed data, Professor Alba said, and analyzing answers more deeply. He said he believed that part of the decrease in the white population was people switching from the category of white to the category of more than one race.
“The census is doing a much better job at reflecting the growing complexity of the population,” he said. “They are really trying to acknowledge that the world is changing out there.”
4. America is getting older, and younger Americans tend to be more diverse. The data also showed that just under a majority of people under the age of 18 checked boxes other than white — multirace, Hispanic, Asian, or Black — a milestone that is the result of a substantially more diverse younger American population. A decade ago, 65 percent of children were white.
Overall, the number of Americans under the age of 18 declined, partly an effect of the drop in the birthrate, according to William Frey, chief demographer at the Brookings Institution. The country is getting older, as evidenced by the fact that The Villages, a retirement community in Florida, was the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the country over the decade.
5. Almost all of the nation's population growth was in its cities. More than half of all counties saw their population decline since 2010.
"Population growth this decade was almost entirely in metro areas," said Marc Perry, a senior demographer at the US Census Bureau. "Texas is a good example of this, where parts of the Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas Fort Worth, Midland and Odessa metro areas had population growth, whereas many of the state's other counties had population declines."
Cities have grown faster than the nation as a whole. Population in metro areas grew by 8.7 percent since 2010. The US population grew from roughly 308.7 million in 2010 to 331.4 million, a 7.35 percent increase. That's the slowest population growth since 1930-1940 — the decade of the Great Depression.