Asians Are Fastest-Growing U.S. Ethnic Group, Blacks Are Slowest, Reports U.S. Census Bureau

Strong growth also reported in the Hispanic and Native Hawaiian & Other Pacific Islander populations.

By Manuel McDonnell-Smith

Add another score for diversity—2.9 percent to be exact. Asians were the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States in 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's annual population estimates. The U.S. Asian population grew by 530,000, or 2.9 percent, to 18.9 million. More than 60 percent of this growth came from international migration.

The rapid growth of the Asian population was closely followed by that of the Hispanic population, which is now estimated at just over 53 million. That figure is 1.1 million people, or 2.2 percent, more than in 2011. Natural births were behind 76 percent of the growth in this population, contributing to Hispanics' remaining the nations' second-largest ethnic group (behind non-Hispanic whites), at about  17 percent of the entire U.S. population.

Professionals in diversity management should begin to note these trends in their long- and short-term planning. "The proportion of young children that is minority has been increasing since the 2010 Census," said Thomas Mesenbourg, Acting Director of the U.S. Census Bureau. "If this proportional growth continues, we expect that the crossover to majority-minority for this group will occur within the next couple of years."

Other minority populations also recorded abundant growth, according to the estimates. Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders grew by 2.2 percent to 1.4 million residents; American Indians and Alaskan Natives rose 1.5 percent to more than 6.3 million residents; and Blacks followed all groups with an increase of 1.3% to 44.5 million residents. Mesenbourg says the overall results were not surprising to his agency. "Asians and Hispanics have long been among our nation's fastest-growing race or ethnic groups,"

Digging deeper into the data released by the Census Bureau also revealed some additional trends among the racial groups, including:


California had the largest Hispanic population of any state on July 1, 2012, at more than 14.5 million residents, with the majority of them (4.8 million) residing in Los Angeles County. Large Hispanics populations were also reported in counties in New Mexico, and in Texas along the Mexican border.


New York had the largest Black population of any state, with 3.7 million residents.  Cook County, Ill., which includes Chicago, had the largest Black population of any county at 1.3 million. Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, had the largest numeric increase of Blacks at 20,000.


California also had the largest Asian population of any state, with 6 million residents, 1.6 million in Los Angeles County. At 60.9 percent, Honolulu County, Hawaii, had the highest percentage of Asians in the nation.

American Indians & Alaska Natives

The Golden State was also home to the largest population of American Indian and Alaskan Natives in the nation, with 1,057,000 residents in 2012. As with Asians and Hispanics, Los Angeles County was also home to the largest population of this demographic group in the nation, with 232,000. Shannon County, N.D., located entirely within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, had the highest population percentage at 93.5 percent.

Native Americans & Other Pacific Islanders

Hawaii had the largest population of Native Americans and Other Pacific Islanders of any state in 2012, with 364,000 residents. California had the largest numeric increase of any state at 6,000.

Non-Hispanic White Alone

California was home to the largest non-Hispanic white population of any state at 15 million, with Texas having the largest increase in population growth at 78,000. Maine had the highest percentage of non-Hispanic whites at 94.1 percent. Los Angeles County had 2.7 million non-Hispanic whites, most of any county.

State Majorities Shifting

With the release of these statistics, five states across the nation are now officially identified as "majority-minority," with four of them in the West. Hawaii was 77.2 percent minority; the District of Columbia 64.5 percent minority, while California and New Mexico were both just over 60 percent minority. The Lone Star State, Texas, had a minority majority of 55.5%.

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The Equal Justice Initiative, sponsor of this project, has documented more than 4,000 "racial terror" lynchings in the United States between 1877 and 1950.

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The Montgomery Downtown business association's President, Clay McInnis, who is white, offered his thoughts to NPR in reference to his own family connection to the history that included a grandfather who supported segregation and a friend who dismantled it. "How do you reconcile that on the third generation?" he asked. "You have conversations about it."

A place to start: The Montgomery Advertiser, the local newspaper, apologized for its racist history of coverage between the 1870s and 1950s by publishing the names of over 300 lynching victims on Thursday, the same day as the memorial opening. "Our Shame: the sins of our past laid bare for all to see. We were wrong," the paper wrote.

The innumerable killings of unarmed Black men and the robbing of Black families of fathers, mothers, and children today not only strongly resemble the history of lynchings, but also bring up the discomfort and visceral reactions that many have not reckoned with.

Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and the man who spearheaded this project, told NPR: "There's a lot of conflict. There's a lot of tension. We're dealing with police violence. We deal with these huge disparities in our criminal justice system. You know, if everything was wonderful you could ask the question, 'Why would you talk about the difficult past?' But everything is not wonderful."

WFSA, a local news station, interviewed a white man who had gone to see the Legacy Museum downtown, also part of the EJI project, located at the place of a former slave warehouse. He talked about how he was overwhelmed by the experience and that "Slavery is alive in a new way today."

Reactions on social media were reflective of the memorial's power and the work that is continuing toward progress.

During a launch event, the Peace and Justice Summit, Marian Wright Edelman, activist and founder of the Children's Defense Fund, urged the audience to continue their activism beyond the day's events on issues like ending child poverty and gun violence, according to the Chicago Tribune: "Don't come here and celebrate the museum ... when we're letting things happen on an even greater scale."

Perhaps the reason to honor and witness the horrific experiences of our ancestors is to seal in our minds the unacceptable killings of Blacks today, and the work we ALL have to do now to stop repeating the past.

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