U.S. Census: Hispanics outnumber African-Americans

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - Hispanics now outnumber African-Americans for the first time in most U.S. metropolitan areas, shifting the political and racial dynamics in cities once dominated by whites and blacks.

Census figures released Thursday highlight the growing diversity of the nation's 366 metro areas, which were home to a record 83.7 percent share of the U.S. population. The numbers from the 2010 count are already having a big effect on redistricting in many states, where district boundary lines are being redrawn based on population size and racial makeup.

Hispanics became the largest minority group in 191 metropolitan areas last year, their population lifted higher as blacks left many economically hard-hit cities in the North for the South and new Latino immigrants spread to different parts of the country. That's up from 159 metro areas when the previous Census was taken in 2000, when Hispanics were most commonly found in Southwest border states.

The new metro areas include Chicago; Grand Rapids, Mich. and Atlantic City, N.J., whose states will lose U.S. House seats in the 2012 elections. Other places seeing rapid Hispanic gains compared to blacks were Lakeland, Fla.; Madison, Wis.; Oklahoma City and Omaha, Neb., due to the mid-decade housing boom that attracted many new immigrants seeking work in the construction and service industries.

The Census Bureau reported last month that overall Hispanic population jumped 42 percent in the last decade to 50.5 million, or 1 in 6 Americans. Blacks increased a modest 11 percent to 37.7 million, with declines particularly evident in big cities such as New York, Detroit, Cleveland, and St. Louis, Mo.

"A greater Hispanic presence is now evident in all parts of the country - in large and small metropolitan areas, in the Snowbelt and in the Sunbelt," said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, who analyzed the census data. "From now on, local, state and national politicians will need to pay attention to Hispanics rather than treating blacks as the major minority," he said.

The political effects have been immediate. Analysts and black groups - including some members of the Congressional Black Caucus themselves - are acknowledging the possibility of fewer black-majority House districts, even as they fight to preserve, if not expand, their gains. That's because of slowing African-American growth in big cities and broader black movement over the last decade into once predominantly white suburbs.

Currently there are 43 members in the Congressional Black Caucus, which is mostly Democrat. Last November, blacks had a net gain of two seats in the House, including Republicans Allen West of Florida, who is a caucus member, and Tim Scott of South Carolina, who is not.

Republicans generally hold the advantage in redrawing the political maps after taking control of legislatures in many states in last November's elections. But many black legislators are pushing for strong enforcement of the federal Voting Rights Act from the Obama Justice Department, which must preapprove political maps for several states and ensure that minority voting power is not unreasonably diluted.

U.S. metro areas showing the biggest drops in white shares due to rapid Hispanic growth over the last decade were Napa, Calif. (69 to 54 percent); Las Vegas (60 to 48 percent) and Orlando, Fla. (65 to 53 percent).

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