Major Trend Revealed in Census 2010 Data

US Race and Ethnic Diversity Increased Dramatically in the Last Decade


  • Esri's proprietary Diversity Index measures the degree of diversity in an area.
  • Users can easily study the major demographic trends over a 10-year period using Esri's Census 2010 data.
  • The pace of diversification is expected to escalate in the coming years.

Increased racial and ethnic diversity define one way that the United States population changed during the last decade. These differences have become increasingly evident for years; however, when Esri's data development team compared data from Census 2000 and Census 2010, some of the changes were quite startling, showing that the country is rapidly becoming more diverse, starting with the youngest population.

US by county population diversity increases during 2000–2010.

US by county population diversity increases during 2000–2010.

What Changed from 2000 to 2010?

From Census 2000 to Census 2010, the US population grew by more than 27.3 million people, for a total of 308,745,538. The Hispanic population increased by over 15.2 million people, accounting for 56 percent of all population growth during the decade, and now makes up 16 percent of the total US population. In 30 percent of US counties, the Hispanic population increased by 100 percent or more, and it doubled in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Tennessee. These increases in the Hispanic population can be attributed to immigration coupled with higher fertility rates.

The much-smaller Asian population grew by 43.3 percent, adding 4.3 million people for a total of 14.6 million. The smallest growth percentages occurred in the White and the Black or African-American population categories, which added 5.7 percent and 12.3 percent, respectively. The White population declined in 10 states and 44 percent of all counties, while the Black population declined in Hawaii; Illinois; Michigan; and Washington, D.C.

Large increases of Hispanic and Multi-Racial young people are driving this trend and indicate that the US population will continue to diversify. Today, approximately one in every two children younger than two years is non-White. Populations of people younger than 18 years grew in all race groups except for the Black and White categories, which declined by 0.4 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively. At 45.9 percent, the Multi-Racial category is the fastest-growing and youngest population category under age 18.

When users analyze the population by race and Hispanic origin, they see evidence of additional trends. The non-Hispanic White adult population grew by 4.4 percent, while the numbers of non-Hispanic White children declined by 9.8 percent over the decade. Non-Hispanic White children are now a minority in 10 states and Washington, D.C. These trends hint that the pace of diversification will escalate in coming decades.

How Does Esri's Diversity Index Measure Different Populations?

The Census Bureau collects data about six race categories (White, Black or African-American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and Some Other Race), any combination of the six, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. Hispanic or Latino can be of any race. While these groups change independently over time, it is important to acknowledge and understand the totality of these changes.

To provide an accurate way to track this data, Esri created a proprietary Diversity Index that measures diversity on a scale of 0 to 100. The Diversity Index is defined as the likelihood that two persons, selected at random from the same area, would belong to a different race or ethnic group. For example, if an area's entire population belongs to the same race or ethnic group, the index is zero, showing that the area has no diversity. Conversely, if the population can be evenly divided among two or more races or ethnic groups, the area's Diversity Index increases, the upper limit being 100. The Diversity Index measures only the degree of diversity in an area, not its racial composition. In 2000, the US Diversity Index was 54.6; in 2010, it had risen to 60.6.

The Diversity Index by Geography and Age

Growth of an area's diversity is a powerful measure of change. The level of diversity varies from state to state. For example, the Diversity Index varies from highs of 81.5 in Hawaii and 81.3 in California to lows of 11.8 in Vermont and 11.6 in Maine. The Diversity Index doubled in 141 counties. Populations younger than 18 are diversifying faster than populations aged 18 and older.

The Diversity Index Can Help Organizations

The Diversity Index enables anyone to easily view the level of diversity for any geographic area in the United States. This information can be used to shape messages and services and target product launches and marketing campaigns more precisely to a particular group or groups of people.

What Other Population Changes Can We Expect?

What do these facts and figures mean to how the US population is changing? For one thing, the term minority will soon mean something very different to us as a society. For example, if current rates of US population growth and decline remain stable, by 2035, groups now considered to be minorities will outnumber non-Hispanic Whites. This crossover will happen much sooner in the category of children who are younger than age 18. In less than five years, non-Hispanic White children will be in the minority in that age group.

How Will These Changes Affect Us?

As our culture becomes richer, communicating and interacting with different racial and ethnic groups will continue to present opportunities and challenges. Organizations need to accommodate population changes by providing products and services in an appropriate, easily understood language that will appeal to multicultural populations. For example, government agencies could employ multilingual staff that can explain area programs; libraries can offer free tutoring in language and reading or offer senior programs that will serve more culturally diverse groups. Private-sector companies and government agencies can ensure that products and services are marketed and sold with the right messaging to attract different customer types and can assist different populations by providing easily accessible services in local, multicultural neighborhoods.

Assimilation and language isolation must be considered, particularly in Hispanic and Asian communities, where many households are multigenerational. Grandparents remain at home to care for young children while the parents go out and work. School-aged children are often better assimilated, speaking English with ease and frequently acting as interpreters for their older, less fluent elders. People in many households speak English at work and school but return to their country's customs and languages at home. Younger people are assimilating more easily by adopting social media as a primary method of communication; nearly all of them use a cell phone to make calls, take photos, and send text messages to friends and family.


Demographic changes do not occur rapidly. Having access to demographic data over a 10-year period allows users to analyze a wealth of data and discover major demographic trends. One such trend revealed by analyzing Census 2010 data was the dramatic increase in population diversity. This trend will continue to influence how agencies, companies, and organizations communicate, promote products, and serve the American public.

How to Access Esri's Census Data and Diversity Index

Esri's Census 2010 database (PL94-171 Redistricting file and variables from Summary File 1) is available for purchase in a variety of formats and geographies. The data is also available through the Esri Business Analyst product suite and Community Analyst. To learn more about Esri's Census 2010 data, visit

The Diversity Index is included in Esri's Updated Demographics database and is available through the Business Analyst product suite and Community Analyst. To learn more about Esri's Updated Demographics data, visit

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