Latinx Files: What the U.S. census tells us about what’s ahead for Latinx community

An envelope containing a 2020 census letter.
One of the findings from the 2020 count by the U.S. Census Bureau is that Latinxs make up 18.7% of the total population, an increase of 23% over the previous decade. Above, an envelope containing a census letter on April 5, 2020.
(Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

The U.S. Census Bureau released its report for the 2020 count last Thursday, confirming what so many of us already knew: The country is becoming increasingly more urban and diverse.

The report also revealed that Latinxs now make up 18.7% of the total population —roughly 62.1 million people — an increase of 23% over the last 10 years. Similarly, more than half of the total national population growth in that same period was fueled by Latinxs.

Conversely, the U.S. white population shrank for the first time in census history. White people now make up 57.8% of this country, a decline of more than 5 million people over the last 10 years.

But what does this all mean?

On paper, the 2020 census report hints at the growing political power of Latinxs. (Insert waking a sleeping giant joke here).


One of the purposes of the count is to determine the number of congressional seats each state gets based on their population. The more people who live in a given state, the more U.S. House representatives it will have in Congress. It stands to reason that if Latinxs are a huge driver of growth across the country, then that will translate to more political representation for our community.

Let’s look at Texas as an example. Latinxs were responsible for one out of every two new residents added over the last 10 years and now account for 39.3% of the total population, nearly matching the number of non-Latinx white people (39.8%) who call the Lone Star State home. Because of this growth, Texas is gaining two congressional seats.

But we also live in a country where political gerrymandering is alive and well. The census only determines how many seats each state gets, not how those congressional districts are drawn. That is left to the states to decide, which means that it’ll be the GOP-controlled Texas state Legislature that will be drawing that map.

Texas Republicans were sued the last time they were in charge of redistricting in 2013. Opponents alleged they had been intentionally discriminated against in the drawing of political maps, but the Supreme Court disagreed. Because of that ruling, the same type of tricks are expected.

“Republicans are going to have to decide — very bluntly — how greedy they want to be,” Renée Cross, senior director of the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston, told the Austin American-Stateman.

Of course, Latinxs are not a monolith (I know, I know, you’re probably tired of hearing this, but it doesn’t make it any less true). While Latinxs have historically voted for Democrats, the 2020 presidential election showed that demographics alone aren’t the panacea the party was hoping for. Despite his white nationalist rhetoric, Donald Trump actually made gains with Latinxs. And as my colleague Gustavo Arellano noted in a recent column, California Latinxs played a big role in getting Gov. Gavin Newsom elected in 2018 but might now be his downfall in the current recall election.

But the diversity in political beliefs among Latinxs notwithstanding, it doesn’t change the fact that this country is becoming more and more nonwhite as time goes on. And that has some people very worried.

“The passage of power is not a polite and gentle affair like passing the salt at a dinner table,” Charles M. Blow of the New York Times wrote in his column last week, aptly entitled “It Was a Terrifying Census for White Nationalists,” Blow notes that even before the Census report, efforts to disenfranchise communities of color through voter suppression are already well underway in states where the white stranglehold of power is under threat.

“People with power fight — sometimes to the end — to maintain it. There’s going to be a shift, but not without strife,” he wrote.


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Making sense of the census, part dos

One of the most significant changes made to the 2020 census form was that it gave respondents the ability to give a more nuanced response to the race question. In 2010, you were allowed to check only one box. This time around, people were finally given the option of selecting more than one race, which is what I did. I checked the “White” and “American Indian or Alaska Native” box because I felt it was the closest approximation to what I am racially, a mestizo.

It turns out I’m not alone.

According to the census, the number of Latinxs who identified as two or more races increased by a whopping 567% between 2010 and 2020 — from a little over 3 million people then to more than 20 million people now. On the flipside, the number of Latinxs who identified as white dropped by 52.9% during the same time period. In 2010, 26.7 million Latinxs checked the “White” box. In 2020, that figure was about 12.6 million people.

The New York Times has a great story that tries to unpack what this means. The takeaway for why there was such a huge increase in Latinxs who identified as multiracial is a combination of three things: An increase in the birth of Latinx multiracial babies; Latinxs rethinking how they view their racial identity; and the significant changes made to the census form itself.

Things we read this week that we think you should read

— Professional goalkeeper David Ochoa, who is Mexican American, wrote a very personal essay for the Players’ Tribune in which he explains why he is choosing to play for the Mexican national team. Ochoa is the latest soccer player to pick El Tri over the U.S. men’s national team, or USMNT, and he certainly won’t be the last. In 2018, The Times published this report by Lauren Hepler and Liliana Michelena about how the U.S. keeps losing U.S.-born prospects to Mexico.

— This week we said goodbye to our Business reporting intern Andrew Mendez. But instead of us getting him a parting gift, it was he who gave us this heartwarming story of quinceañeras canceled by COVID-19 being back on a year later.

— My colleague Kate Linthicum wrote about how American celebrities are changing Mexico’s tequila industry. Somewhat related: If you buy tequila made by a brand owned by a celebrity, I’m just going to assume that you know absolutely nothing about tequila or booze and shouldn’t be trusted.

— The Cuban government has announced tighter social media restrictions in the wake of mass anti-government protests throughout the island that are organized via the internet.


— From NPR: “Heat Is Killing Workers In the U.S. — And There Are No Federal Rules to Protect Them.”

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The best thing on the Latinternet: Beisbol is life.

Tuesday was Mexican Heritage Night at Dodger Stadium, so the team invited actor Cristo Fernández, better known as Dani Rojas from “Ted Lasso,” to throw the first pitch. Even better, the Dodgers posted the ceremonial toss on Twitter. It is as wholesome and pure as Dani Rojas himself.