By Dianne Anderson
In the next few decades, Latinos and other so-called minorities will make up most of the state’s population, something that comes as little surprise to many who live in California, and have watched the fast-changing demographic.
It’s a social evolution set to impact just about every area of society from education to business.
But the news may come as a bit of a shock to all those who still think that minorities should just stay in their own little corner of the world.
At the state policy level, California is one of the few states where Republicans fell way short of the voters’ confidence this year, already reflecting an obvious trend.
Organizations like the Greenlining Institute see it as a signal for the future with a strong message to conservatives that if their party expects any support from voters of color, they’ll have to get used to the idea of the state’s growing diversity.
The new majority will be up for big discussion going forward, especially with the recent formation of a redistricting commission to stop gerrymandering, a much criticized process with politicians pandering to their own special interest groups.
Daniel Byrd, Ph.D., research director and author of the Greenlining Institute’s latest study, “California’s New Majority,” said he was surprised by the level of growth anticipated for the Latino population in California, and what it means potentially for public policy. He analyzed data from the California Department of Finance, which keeps population estimates by race; Byrd looked at the projections from 2000 to 2040.
At the other end of the scale, Blacks show the smallest increase, and will represent the least of the minorities in the state.
The study shows that the “majority minority” population of California will be a first of its kind in the country, with the Latino population projected to increase by 15.5 million in the next 30 years, representing 48% of the state, along with an Asian population to increase by 3.4 million, representing 13% of the state.
For African Americans, an increase of only 354,965 is expected to bring their statewide presence from its current 6.6% down to 4.7% by 2040, the study shows. Over 100,000 whites will leave the state, decreasing their state population to 29%.
Dr. Byrd guesses that some of the housing costs may be pushing African Americans to the south, which has seen gains in the African American population over the past 15 years. The bigger issue, he theorizes, is that the Black population, being the descendants of slaves, has not kept up with the base of populations with an immigrant base, such as Latino and Asians.
Some of the numbers for African Americans may be off if they are not accurately reflected in the homeless population, which according to the U.S. Conference of Mayors represented 42% of the nation’s homeless population in 25 cities in 2006.
As for the voting power of people of color, in California people of color will make up a strong voter base, which Byrd says will be a big issue for the Democratic and Republican parties.
“They’re both going to have to take the voices of communities of color a lot more seriously if they want to have any power within the state,” he said.
Another concern is an Arizona style immigration law within the state; those types of policies may alienate Mexicans with the Republican Party. He said that politicians should look closely at the data and see the new majority, a diverse population of Latinos, Blacks, Asians and American Indians, and also whites.
Focused on California, Byrd said that it’s hard to generalize the rate of diversity for the rest of the nation, and its impact, but there are some changes lately.
“In states like Iowa and Kansas, there is a growing Latino population. In the south, in Georgia, the Black population is growing,” he said.
It means that both political parties are going to have to be more responsive to communities of color if they want to get their vote, he said, adding that it’s not to say people of color will all of a sudden run out and vote Republican, but shows they will have to fight harder to grab the attention of the new voter.
“With these demographic changes, both parties have to wake up and do a better job in dealing with the issues of the majority,” he said.