What will America look like in 2050? As regular TP Ideas readers know, that America then will be even more diverse than America now is assured. But the pace at which the United States is hurtling toward this future, even in historically lily-white states, might surprise you.
Our best guess as to America’s demographic future comes from the Census Bureau’s population projections, which provide estimates of our race-ethnic distribution by five year intervals up to 2050. According to these projections, around the year 2043 non-Hispanic whites will become a minority of our population and by 2050 they will be only 47 percent with minorities a solid 53 percent majority. Hispanics will be 28 percent of the population, blacks will be 13 percent, Asians will be 7 percent, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders will be 1 percent and multiracial individuals will be another 4 percent.
Of course this change will not be equal across states. Different states will start and wind up in very different places in terms of their level of diversity. Unfortunately, while we have good information on where various states are right now, we lack good projections of where individual states are likely to be as the decades unfold to 2050. This is because the Census Bureau has not done state level projections for race and ethnicity since 1995 and those projections, besides being outdated, only went through 2025.
The best we can do therefore is to look at the state level data released from the 2010 Census, compare those data to data from the 2000 Census and extrapolate forward to future decades. Such straight line estimates have to be treated very cautiously, especially the farther we get from the present day, but they can at least give us a rough feel way for the way diversity might evolve at the state level.
Right now, only four states (California, Hawaii, New Mexico and Texas) and the District of Columbia are majority-minority. But that will change fairly rapidly if 2000–2010 rates of change persist this decade and beyond. In this decade, we would expect Nevada (46 percent minority in 2010), Maryland (45 percent minority), Georgia (44 percent) and possibly Florida (42 percent) to pass that threshhold. In the 2020’s, Arizona, New Jersey and possibly Delaware and New York should follow suit. And by 2050, we may also see majority-minority populations in Connecticut, Illinois, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Virginia, Washington state and possibly even Alaska.
That’s just the roster of possible majority-minority states. It’s important to emphasize how widespread the transformation of the country is likely to be, as diversity spreads deeply into seemingly unlikely states. We can see this by estimating the 2050 minority share in states by using two simple methods. The first applies the 2000–2010 growth rates of the white and minority populations (respectively) to the next four decades. The second applies the 2000–2010 minority shift in population share to the same time period. Both figures are likely on the high side and necessarily speculative, as emphasized above, but it’s worth noting that the overall US shift in minority share predicted by the second method is fairly close to the figure from the Census projections.
Kansas is predicted to have 50 percent minority in 2050 by the first method while the second method predicts a somewhat more modest, but still eye-catching 42 percent share. Utah is predicted to have 49 percent minorities by the first method and 39 percent by the second. Pennsylvania is projected to be 47 percent minority by the first method and 39 percent by the second. And states like Ohio and Michigan, as slow-changing as they are, could still be around a third minority by 2050.
These state level changes will be manifested most vividly in the large metropolitan areas where most Americans live. The largest 100 metro areas in the United States, with populations ranging from 514,000 (Modesto, CA) to almost 19 million (New York), include about two-thirds of the US population according to the 2010 Census. Between 1990 and 2010, the combined white share of these metros’ population declined from 71 to 57 percent while minorities rose from 29 to 43 percent. Of that 14 point increase in minority share, 9 points came from Hispanic growth.
These changes drove the number of majority minority large metros from 5 in 1990 to 22 in 2010, including such important areas as San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Houston, Miami, New York and Washington. If trends observed in the last couple of decades continue, most large metros should be majority minority by 2050. The list of new majority minority metros is likely to include Atlanta, Baltimore, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Jacksonville, Milwaukee, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Raleigh, Sacramento, Seattle, Tampa and Tuscon. Overall, the minority percentage across large metros should be pushing 70 percent.
As these data show, in the next 37 years, diversity is likely to spread far beyond the traditional “melting pot” states and metros to every corner of the country. Diversity will increasingly be not just a catch phrase but a lived reality for the overwhelming majority of Americans. The sooner everyone, including conservatives, accepts this, the better off we’ll be.