How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Five good explanations of what the census results mean for California

Photo by Michelle Kinsey Bruns/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Yesterday's 2010 Census results for California revealed what was already expected, an increasingly diverse state in which ethnic minorities have together become a majority. Latinos and Asian Americans alone - 37.6 and 12.8 percent of the population, respectively - now make up half the state's residents.

What does this mean for the state, politically and culturally? There have been several good explanations today, among them:

  • A story in the Los Angeles Times explained how the census results will help shift political power around the state; an interactive map of California's congressional districts shows each district's racial and ethnic breakdown, and helps explain the redistricting process. From the story:

Political power will shift away from traditional strongholds such as Los Angeles and San Francisco and into the Inland Empire and Central Valley. Minorities, whose representation in the Legislature and the California congressional delegation has never matched their population numbers, could see increased opportunities to gain control of elected offices.

  • A story in the Washington Post pointed out that more than half the children in California now are Latino, meaning the state's Latino population is poised to surpass that of non-Latino whites in the near future:

Among Californians of all ages, the 38 percent who are Hispanic almost equal the 40 percent who are white, a drop of 5 percent. Even in Orange County, where the airport is named after John Wayne, whites are now a minority and Hispanics make up the largest block of school-age children.

"Hispanics are the future of California," said William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution. "Any local or state initiatives that have to do with education need to reach out to this population. That's more crucial in California than anywhere else."

  • KPCC's Patt Morrison show today explored what the census numbers represent in terms of political influence, and featured interviews with professor Dowell Myers of USC’s School of Policy, Planning and Development and Democratic U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra. The audio is available on the show's website.

  • A story in USA Today tied the slowing of California's overall population growth - only 10 percent since 2000 - to the economy, with high unemployment and other problems making the state less appealing to newcomers from around the country and abroad. From the piece:

While the nation is emerging from a recession, California felt it early and is continuing to lag, economists say. That makes the state far less attractive to residents of other states who in previous decades may have longed to join the California dream.

"The biggest change is definitely the slowing down in our rate of growth and the almost total stop of people coming to California from other states," says Douglas Johnson, a fellow at the Rose Institute of State and Local Government in Claremont.

We joke sometimes that you white folks don't have to worry -- we're not here for a "reconquista" (the right-wing term for a Mexican reclamation of land that once belonged to Latinos).

Well ... we were kideen!

We do want our land back.

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