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California is leading nation in diversity

Times Staff Writer

Deepening the nation’s diversity, the minority population of the United States reached 100.7 million in 2006, led by California as home to the largest numbers of the two fastest-growing racial groups, Latinos and Asians, the Census Bureau reported today.

Minorities now account for one-third of the nation’s 300 million U.S. residents, with the largest share of them -- 21% -- living in California.

They now constitute 57% of the state’s population, including 13.1 million Latinos, 5 million Asians, 2.7 million blacks and 689,000 Native Americans and Alaska Natives, according to population estimates taken between July 1, 2005, and July 1, 2006.

Non-Hispanic whites were still California’s largest racial group, at 15.7 million, but represented a shrinking proportion of the state’s population.

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“As goes California, so goes the nation,” said Marcelo Gaete, senior program director for the Los Angeles-based National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund.

Gaete and others said the nation’s increasingly diverse population would probably have a significant effect on politics and public policy because minorities tend to vote differently than whites.

In California, minority voters have shown “systematic differences” from whites in their electoral choices, with more support for more generous immigration policies, taxation and public investment in schools, according to Dowell Myers, a USC professor of urban planning and demographics.

He said the difference is partly rooted in the fact that minorities are younger, with a greater personal stake in public schools, for instance.

Nationally, the median age for Latinos was 27.4, compared with 30.1 for blacks, 33.5 for Asians and 40.5 for whites.

“There is a schism,” Myers said. “Older folks want older folks’ benefits. They don’t want to invest in younger folks’ benefits, especially if they’re minorities. But these people are the future workers, taxpayers and homeowners. To not embrace them is ... putting your dollar into the wrong end of the life cycle.

“Fundamentally,” Myers said, “people have to realize we all have shared fates. It’s necessary to pull together to have one shared future.”

The Census Bureau’s estimates are based on population change from 2000 using annual data on births, deaths and international migration.

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Gaete said the new numbers underscored the importance for California to hold an early presidential primary election in February 2008.

Otherwise, he said, states with largely white populations, such as New Hampshire and Iowa, will end up with oversized influence in narrowing the field for a national population they do not demographically reflect.

“The country is becoming increasingly diverse, increasingly colorful, and our political system should reflect that,” Gaete said.

The demographers added what many political experts already know: that multicultural coalitions are the key to winning a growing number of elections today.

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Nationally, Latinos accounted for almost half the nation’s population growth of 2.9 million.

Their numbers increased by 3.4% to 44.3 million in 2006, constituting 14.8% of the nation’s population, with the largest numbers in California, Texas and Florida.

Blacks increased by 1.3% to 40.2 million, making up 13.3% of the nation’s population. New York, Florida and Texas had the largest black populations.

Asians grew by 3.2% to 14.9 million, accounting for 5% of the nation’s population.

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The largest numbers were in California, New York and Texas.

The census also counted 4.5 million Native Americans and Alaska Natives and 1 million native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders. The total of non-Hispanic whites who indicated no other race grew 0.3% to 198.7 million in 2006.

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teresa.watanabe@latimes.com

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Increasing diversity

Minorities now account for one-third of the nation’s 300 million residents and make up 57% of California’s population.

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Census Bureau population estimates as of July 1, 2006

(in millions)

*--* California Nation White* 15.7 198.7 Latino 13.1 44.3 Asian 5.0 14.9 Black 2.7 40.2 Native American 0.7 4.5 Pacific Islander 0.3 1.0 Total population 36.5 299.4

*--*

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* Non-Hispanic whites who indicated no other race

Note: Group totals do not add up to the population totals because members of minority races may be counted in more than one group.

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Source: Census Bureau

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(A1) Minorities

California is home to 20.7 million members of racial and ethnic minority groups, 21% of the nation’s total.

California - 21%

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Rest of U.S. - 79%

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Source: Census Bureau estimates 2006


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