How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Compton: A shifting population, except in City Hall

NYTimes.com

Screen shot of a race and ethnicity map of the Compton area from the New York Times' "Mapping America: Every City, Every Block" interactive project. Blue dots represent African Americans, yellow dots represent Latinos, red dots represent Asians and green dots represent whites. Each dot represents 25 people.

When the initial 2010 census results were released last month, the attention quickly turned to the nation's growing Latino population and, in turn, how it will shape the political landscape.

While the U.S. Census Bureau has yet to release new data on race and ethnicity, it's already clear that some of the states with the biggest population growth, and which will gain Congressional seats, also happen to be states where Latinos have come to represent a bigger chunk of the population in recent years. But does this necessarily translate into more political clout for Latinos? And as these population shifts take place, what shape do they take at the neighborhood level, culturally and politically?

An interesting case study is playing out in Compton, a working-class Los Angeles County city that was long predominantly African American (some may remember it as the Compton of N.W.A's 1988 hip hop classic Straight Outta Compton) but where Latinos now make up two-thirds of the population.

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In Compton, a case study in shifting demographics and the political landscape

NYTimes.com

Screen shot of a race and ethnicity map of the Compton area from the New York Times' "Mapping America: Every City, Every Block" interactive project. Blue dots represent African Americans, yellow dots represent Latinos. Each dot represents 25 people.

A post yesterday explored the political impact of a shifting and growing Latino population throughout the United States, as states with some of the biggest population gains noted in last year's census pick up Congressional seats. But there's another version of the population shift story that's unfolding in Compton at the moment, a formerly African American majority city that is now two-thirds Latino.

Like other communities in a broad swath of Los Angeles County that was once predominantly African American, Compton is in the throes of a cultural and political struggle between its traditional residents and its newer ones, as both groups compete for political clout and limited resources in a community where the 2009 per-capita income was a little over $13,000.

In December, three Latinas sued the city under the 2001 California Voting Rights Act, claiming that Compton's at-large city council elections violated Latinos' civil rights by weakening their voting power. Though the city is now majority Latino, all four city council members and the mayor are African American. Since 2000, half a dozen Latino candidates have run for office and lost.

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More sense of the census: Analysis looks at Latino population growth and reapportionment

Source: Latino Decisions

State Latino Population Growth 2000-09, based on U.S. Census data

It's been nearly a month since the initial results of the 2010 census were released, and while details on the nation's racial and ethnic breakdown have yet to be made public, the polling firm Latino Decisions has distilled the early information, along with annual census data since 2000, into an analysis of Latino population growth and its political impact.

2010 census data is being used to reapportion Congressional seats based on population. The report points out that only eight states will gain representation: Texas will gain four seats, Florida two, and Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Washington, Georgia and South Carolina will each gain one.

Why these states? From the report:

Larger Latino presence in these states was essential to gaining additional representation. The 2010 ethnic and racial composition data are not yet public, but comparing 2000 and 2009 Census data it is evident that congressional delegation growth is attributable to Latino-specific population growth in these states.  As the figure below illustrates, the Latino share of state populations increased in every case. This is not a regional phenomenon: in 35 states across the country, their population more than doubled.

It is true that non-Latinos also netted gains, but Latinos out-paced others by rather strong margins.  Some states, including Louisiana, Rhode Island and Michigan actually had a net loss of non-Latinos and grew only because Latino increases offset the non-Latino population dip.  With all of these details in mind, it is fair to say that all new districts are Latino districts.

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Census Bureau history lesson: The immigrant population over time

Photo courtesy of Erica Marshall/Flickr (Creative Commons)


For those who love statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau has compiled a nifty list of historical census facts regarding the nation's foreign-born population, as hot of a newsworthy topic today as it was in the nineteenth century.

Here's nifty historical fact number one:

The foreign-born population accounted for 10 percent of the total U.S. population in 1850, and 15 percent in1890. Today, the foreign-born comprise 12 percent of the population.

In other words, immigrants are no bigger part of the population than they were 111 years ago, and comprise only a slightly larger piece of the pie today than they did before the Civil War.

Also in the numbers, though, is one telling difference that may well influence perceptions: The ethnic and racial makeup of the foreign born.

From another item on the list:

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Mapping the nation by race, income and more

Screen shot

The U.S. Census Bureau has yet to release specific data on race and ethnicity for the 2010 census, the initial results of which were released yesterday. But in the meantime, a new interactive mapping project put together by the New York Times helps make fascinating sense of who lives where.

Called "Mapping America: Every City, Every Block," the recently released maps do just that, using 2005-2009 data compiled from the census' American Community Survey. There are maps for race and ethnicity, income, housing and families, and education.

The scale of the project is impressive, in part because it drills down the nation's population makeup literally to street level. Punch South Los Angeles' 90001 ZIP code into the search tool and a map of starkly contrasting dots representing the area's tense mix of Latino (yellow dots) and African American (blue dots) residents comes into view, with each dot representing 25 people. Enter the same ZIP code into the income map, and you get a sobering sense of how many households there survive on less than $30,000 a year.

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