As Demographics Shift, More U.S. Counties Become Majority Non-White

For years, the white share of the U.S. population has declined, as Hispanic, Asian and black populations grow; some demographers predict the U.S. could become a majority-minority nation by as early as 2050. But the shift to a more diverse nation is happening more quickly in some places than in others, according to the Pew Research Center.

In a new report ( examining Census Bureau Data, Pew researcher Jens Manual Krogstad said 109 U.S. counties have become majority nonwhite since 2000–defined as counties where non-Hispanic whites are no longer the majority.

The report said counties where nonwhite share of population is above 50% are mostly in Southwest. Overall, 293 U.S. counties were majority nonwhite in 2018. Most of these counties are concentrated in California, the South and on the East Coast, with few in the country’s middle section.

In addition, the study said several majority white counties with large populations could flip in coming years. Fairfax County, Va. (population 1.2 million), Pima County, Ariz. (1 million), Milwaukee County, Wis. (948,000) and Cobb County, Ga. (757,000) all had populations less than 52% white.

In 21 of the 25 biggest U.S. counties by population, nonwhite groups together make up more than half of residents. Eight of these counties were majority white in 2000 but are no longer: San Diego, Orange, Riverside and Sacramento (all in California), plus Clark (Nevada), Broward (Florida), Tarrant (Ft. Worth, Texas) and Wayne (Detroit, Mich.). Hispanics were the largest nonwhite population in all of these eight counties except Wayne, where the black population was the largest nonwhite group. (In Broward County, Hispanic and black residents made up similar shares of the population at 30% and 28%, respectively.)

As the nation’s racial and ethnic diversity grows, whites remain the single largest racial or ethnic group in the U.S. when looking at the country as a whole, accounting for 60% of all Americans. The four largest U.S. counties that had majority white populations in 2018 were Maricopa (Arizona), King (Washington), Middlesex (Massachusetts) and Palm Beach (Florida). From 2000 to 2018, just two counties went from minority white to majority white: Calhoun County in South Carolina and West Feliciana Parish in Louisiana, each with relatively small populations of about 15,000.

The study said among the 109 counties that between 2000 and 2018 shifted from majority white to majority nonwhite, 26 were at least 60% white in 2000. Counties in Georgia stand out for having five of the 10 biggest percentage point swings in their white population share. These 10 counties also had the largest percentage point drop among all U.S. counties on this measure.

Of counties where white share of population has dropped the most since 2000, Gwinnett County, near Atlanta, was largest in overall population (928,000) among these top 10. Its population dropped from 67% white in 2000 to 36% in 2018. Rockdale, home to 91,000 and also near Atlanta, had the biggest percentage point swing of the top 10 counties on this measure, falling from 73% white to 30% during the same time period.

This trend stems from a flat or declining number of white Americans in each of these five Georgia counties (Henry, Douglas and Newton are the other three), combined with a large and growing black population and a smaller Hispanic population that is also increasing in number. (In recent decades, many black Americans have moved to the Atlanta area from Northern states as part of a return migration to the South.)

“The future racial and ethnic composition of the U.S. has been a subject of debate, due in part to the growing number of Americans with varied backgrounds–and how these Americans identify themselves,” Krogstad said. “The number of multiracial Americans is rising.”