Latin America

Latinos outnumber white population for first time ever in California

Non-Latino residents are now a minority in nation’s richest state, says US Census Bureau

Pablo Ximénez de Sandoval
A demonstration in Washington DC in favor of immigration reform.
A demonstration in Washington DC in favor of immigration reform.Reuters

If US demographers are correct in their calculations, sometime between 2014 and this year Latinos in California grew to outnumber the white population for the first time.

US Census Bureau figures released at the end of June showed that 14.99 million Latinos live in California compared to the 14.92 million people who described themselves in the last decennial national survey as white, or specifically non-Latino.

California has always been a harbinger for population and wealth trends in the United States

California has always been a harbinger for population and wealth trends in the United States because it has the largest number of residents (38.8 million), and, with a GDP comparable to Brazil, it is considered the richest state.

The data taken from the last census, in 2010, shows that California has now become the third state in the nation where the white population no longer accounts for the majority.

More than half of New Mexico’s two million residents are of Latino origin, while in Hawaii Asians and Pacific islanders outnumber the white population.

But based on the new figures, demographers have also been able to predict new trends.

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The numbers show that the average age of the Latino population in California is 29, while 49 is the median age of non-Latino whites. State projections calculate that by 2060, the Latino-Hispanic population will have doubled in size compared to the white population.

The US Census Bureau defines a Latino as anyone whose race is white, black or Indian but with Latin American origins.

An estimated 70 percent of California’s population is white, but the determining factor was the number of people who checked the box on the census form that states “non-Hispanic white” – in other words, from other European backgrounds.

Asians account for the second-largest minority group in California (14 percent) while African Americans make up six percent of the state’s population. Native Americans number about 1.7 percent, according to the figures.

Officials define a Latino as anyone whose race is white, black or Indian but with Latin American origins

California now has the largest Latino population of any state in the nation, surpassing New Mexico, which had held the first ranking. New York continues to be the state where the most African Americans live.

Currently, there are some 55.4 million Latinos and Hispanics living in the United States. Of that number, 37 million said they spoke Spanish on a regular basis, according to a Pew Center study. Pew researchers predict that, between this year and 2020, the United States will become the country with the largest number of Spanish-speakers after Mexico, surpassing Spain.

Nevertheless, there will be a tipping point at some time as more young Latinos growing up in the United States are speaking English only.

About 80 percent of California’s Latino population is of Mexican origin. During his visit last year, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto called the state “the other Mexico.”

California has now surpassed New Mexico as the state with the largest Latino population

Los Angeles County – the most populous in the United States and the second-richest after New York – is the second-largest urban area with the most Mexicans outside Mexico City. There are also more Salvadorans living in Los Angeles than in El Salvador.

The rise in the Latino power base has also ushered in important political changes, especially in state policies that favor migrants, which have been pushed through the Democratic-controlled state legislature in Sacramento. One of the more controversial measures introduced in 2013 allowed illegal migrants to apply for state driver’s licenses – an important identification document that also allows them to tap into California’s social services.

Inside the party, there are rising Latino stars among California’s Democrats. Among those are Senate leader Kevin de León, who is the highest-ranking member in the state legislature.

The Latino power base has ushered in important changes in state policies that favor illegal migrants

Earlier this year, Governor Jerry Brown, also a Democrat, appointed Mexican-born lawyer Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar to state Supreme Court. Antonio Villaraigosa, the son of Mexican migrants who became a former state Assembly speaker, won elections in 2005 as the first Latino mayor of modern Los Angeles.

But a report by the Los Angeles Times on Thursday showed that Latinos in California still have a long way to go before they can consolidate their political power.

Last November, Latinos only cast 15 percent of the ballots in the gubernatorial race even though they make up 39 percent of the state’s population. Just 10 percent of the county supervisors – officials that oversee budgets and public services in rural areas – in California’s 58 counties are Latinos.

In city councils across the state Latinos only make up for 15 percent of members.

Loretta Sánchez, a US representative from Orange County, has announced that she will be running for the US Senate next year, hoping to become the first Latino to serve in the upper chamber. Her rival, Kamala Harris, who is also a Democrat and from a mixed heritage background, could become the first African- and Asian-American to serve in the Senate if she wins the 2016 race.

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