March 18, 2011 | Miami Herald | Original Article

South Florida leading national census trend

As the country's fourth largest state inches towards a racial tipping point where minorities will soon outnumber whites, South Florida is at the forefront of a culture-defining shift towards hyper-diversity, new 2010 U.S. Census figures show.

The out-migration of some 263,000 non-Hispanic whites from South Florida, and the surge in the Hispanic , black and Asian populations contributed to a statewide racial reshuffling that is expected to have implications for the future of the Sunshine State for years to come.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties, responsible for 4.2 million out of 18.8 million state residents played a major role in pushing Florida's proportion of minorities to a historic high of 42 percent, up from 34.6 percent 10 years ago. Those two counties welcomed nearly 700,000 additional minority residents between 2000 and 2010, even as a quarter million whites left for other parts of the state and country.

"We've seen in big global cities - whether it's New York or Miami - an outmigration of whites for a while," said Dr. William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institute. "But we've also seen that in an economically difficult decade, Florida continued to attract people, especially minorities."

Demographers expect the state's population shift to impact almost every sector of society, from education to politics to the economy. The once-a-decade political redistricting process is already under way, and Florida will soon have two additional representatives in Congress due to its 17.6 percent growth. Half of that growth came from Hispanics, and that community is expected to exert even more political influence across the state in the years ahead.

"As the Hispanic population in Florida continues to grow, we must work to ensure that the community is fairly and fully represented in the American political process, said state Rep. Juan Zapata, R-Miami, in a statement released by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

Florida' s largest metropolitan area, which includes Miami-Dade and Broward counties, are both firmly now "majority-minority" status, meaning non-Hispanic whites make up less than half the populations there. Broward county reached that status during the last decade, as blacks, Hispanics and Asians moved there in droves, replacing 180,000 whites who left.

"African-American, Hispanic, white, you name it, we got it," said Miramar resident Phil Patton, 64. "It's a great mix."

As Florida's other major cities "flip" from white majority status - Tampa and Orlando both did last decade - some experts say the entire state could become majority-minority within a few years, likely before the next census. That could make Florida the nation's fifth state to see minorities outnumber non-Hispanic whites . Along with states like California and Texas, Florida is part of a national trend in which the United States is becoming more multihued, and minorities are expected to account for more than half of the nation's residents in the next 30 years.

Just 10 years ago, two out of every three Floridians identified themselves as white non-Hispanic. That proportion has fallen to 57.9 percent, and is forecast to shrink further. Looking at the state's under-18 population population a good indication of where the trend is headed.

The number of white non-Hispanic children has declined statewide over the past 10 years, the result of an aging and more mobile population of white adults, said Frey. Among young children, whites became a a minority during the last decade, analysis of Census data shows.

Florida's growth in minorities is being led by Hispanics, who are beginning to duplicate the majority status they have in South Florida in places like Orlando and Tampa. Other minority groups grew as well between 2000 and 2010. Here's a breakdown of some of that growth:

  • Florida's Hispanic population grew 57.4 percent, or by 1.5 million, to reach 4.2 million. As a portion of the total, Hispanics grew from 16.8 percent to 22.5 percent. Some of the largest gains were in Central Florida - the number of Hispanic residents in Orange County surged 84 percent to 308,244.
  • The state's black population increased 26 percent during the 2000s, adding nearly 587,000 residents statewide - more than any other state in the nation, said Frey. The state received its fair share blacks migrating from major Northern cities towards the lower-cost of living in the South. In South Florida, migration from the South - mainly the Caribbean- also helped boost the black population.
  • The population of Asians grew faster than any other group, surging 70 percent across the state to reach a total of 445,216. Asians now make up 2.4 percent of all Floridians, up from 1.6 percent in 2000. In South Florida, the Asian community is concentrated in Broward, where its 56,000 members are concentrated in cities like Pembroke Pines and Miramar. In Weston, the Asian population doubled to about 3,000.
  • The number of people identifying themselves as "some other race" jumped from about 29,000 to nearly 50,000, perhaps reflecting an increase in the number of residents originating from outside the United States.

In Florida, the chance that two randomly selected residents would be racially or ethnically different from each other continued to grew from 66.3 percent in 2000 to 74.1 percent in 2010.

The full impact of the state's changing racial landscape on cultural relations, education, politics and commerce remain to be seen, but will likely be significant, demographers say.

"The diversity is what helps Florida's growth," said Frey. "It's certainly going to be its future."