California Is Most Racially Diverse State : Census data: It has the greatest percentage of Asians and Latinos and the second-highest number of blacks and American Indians.


California is the nation’s most racially diverse state, with a greater percentage of Asian and Latino residents than any other state and the second-highest number of blacks and American Indians of any state, census figures show.

According to data compiled from the 1990 census and released this week, the 29.8 million people living in California listed themselves as 69% white, 9.6% Asian, 7.4% black, 0.8% native American and 13.2% “other.”

The state’s 2.8-million Asian population is 10 times as large as the 285,311 in Illinois, which has the second-largest number of Asians. California also has 2.2 million blacks, trailing only New York state, which has 2.9 million. The state’s 242,164 population of American Indians is second to Oklahoma’s 252,420, the census figures show.

In a separate category, which includes people of all races, 7.7 million people in California--25.8% of the state’s population--defined themselves as Latino. Latinos were not listed on census forms as a racial category but as a separate ethnic designation. Texas has the second-largest Latino population at 4.3 million.


Demographers and social scientists said that the wide array of racial groups that make up the state’s population mirrors the changing national portrait. As the proportion of white Americans dwindles, the percentage of minorities, led primarily by growth among Asians and Pacific Islanders, is increasing.

“As other groups grow, they’re chipping away at that majority white population base,” said Stan Rolark, a statistician with the Census Bureau.

Across the United States, the number of people who identified themselves as white on 1990 census forms declined to 80.3% of the national population, from 83.1% in 1980. Over the same period, the national percentage of Asians living in this country increased to 2.9% in 1990, from 1.5% in 1980, while the percentage of Latinos rose to 9% in 1990, from 6.4% in 1980.

Despite the rapid growth among immigrants, blacks continue to be the largest minority group in the nation, increasing to 12.1% in 1990, from 11.7% a decade earlier. The number of American Indians also rose, to 0.8% of the national population in 1990, from 0.6% in 1980. People listing themselves as “other” increased to 3.9%, from 3.0%.


William P. O’Hare, director of the Population and Policy Analysis Program at the University of Louisville’s Urban Research Institute, said that the census data “largely confirms what we already knew, that there has been tremendous growth among minority and immigrant groups in the nation.”

O’Hare said that he was stunned to see figures showing that California has such a high percentage of all minorities. “What strikes me as I look at these numbers is that California is so big in so many ways, including the number and proportion of minorities and minority groups in the state,” he said.

Refugees apparently fleeing political unrest in Southeast Asia fueled a massive influx of immigrants into the United States, accounting for many of the 3.8 million Asians and Pacific Islanders who entered the nation between 1980 and 1990. Census officials said that some of those who came to America, including Filipinos, Vietnamese, Koreans and Asian Indians, came in such large numbers that they more than doubled their populations during the decade.

Rolark said that the higher figures for Asians, in part, are attributable to changes in the way the Census Bureau asks individuals about their ethnicity.


“In 1980, we weren’t able to count the specific groups as well as we did last year,” he said. He noted that the 1990 census forms, unlike previous years, contained a blank for write-in descriptions to more carefully identify the ethnicity of people not specifically listed under the nine Asian categories.

O’Hare said that people responding to the latest census probably were more likely to identify their racial groups, given the recent increased attention that race and national origin have played in society.

“It’s doubtful that all Asians share little beyond the region of the globe they come from,” he said. “They don’t all share the same values or the same language or the same customs or anything else.”

Tino Calabia, who has served on the boards of several Asian-American assistance organizations and is a member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, said that the growth among Asians is not limited to California.


“It’s not just tremendous growth,” Calabia said. “It’s tremendous change. Twenty years ago, there were mostly only communities of Chinese-Americans and Japanese-Americans in large cities. Now there are Asian groups in places that Asians weren’t frequently found in the past. Places such as St. Paul, Minn., and on farms in Nebraska.”

But once the immigrants arrive, a disproportionate number are drawn to California’s warm climate and lifestyle. The state accounted for the nation’s largest Asian-Pacific Islander population, at 2,845,659, or 39.1% of all people counted in this category in the census.

California also has the greatest numbers of several other Asian groups: 42.8% of all Chinese in the country live in the state, as well as 52% of all Filipinos, 36% of Japanese, 32.5% of Koreans, 45.6% of Vietnamese and 52.1% of Hmongs.

Ethnic Origins


California’s ethnic makeup as compared to selected other states.

State Total White Black California 29,760,021 20,524,327 2,208,801 New York 17,990,455 13,385,255 2,859,055 Texas 16,986,510 12,774,762 2,021,632 Florida 12,937,926 10,749,285 1,759,534 Colorado 3,294,394 2,905,474 133,146 Massachusetts 6,016,425 5,405,374 300,130 Oklahoma 3,145,585 2,583,512 233,801

State Am. Indian Asian Other Latino California 242,164 2,845,659 3,939,070 7,687,938 New York 62,651 693,760 989,734 2,214,026 Texas 65,877 319,459 1,804,780 4,339,905 Florida 36,335 154,302 238,470 1,574,143 Colorado 27,776 59,862 168,136 424,302 Massachusetts 12,241 143,392 155,288 287,549 Oklahoma 252,420 33,563 42,289 86,160

SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau