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Mecklenburg now majority-minority
Census finds shift in county's demographics
Published Thursday, June 13, 2013 3:23 pm
by Herbert L. White


This article was updated on June 20.

People of color are the majority of Mecklenburg County's population as of 2012, according to data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau. Mecklenburg was one of six U.S. counties to turn majority-minority last year.

Mecklenburg County is one of North Carolina’s brownest, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The federal agency reports people of color and Hispanics (an ethnicity group of any race) outnumbered non-Hispanic whites in Mecklenburg as of July 2012, making the county one of six in the U.S. to tilt majority-minority.

“It’s not unique to Mecklenburg,” said James Johnson, director of the Urban Investment Strategies Center at UNC-Chapel Hill. “That’s a general trend for the nation as a whole. I think the big story is was for the first time in history, the white death rate exceeds the birth rate, so whites have been growing much more slowly than people of color for quite some time now.”

The country’s Hispanic population grew by 1.1 million, or 2.2 percent, to 53 million in 2012 as births accounted for 76 percent of the increase. Hispanics account make up 17 percent of the country’s population, second only to non-Hispanic whites and ahead of blacks at 13 percent.

An additional 26 million people called the U.S. home in the first decade of the 21st century, with 92 percent immigrating from Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. As whites age out of child-bearing, the death rate ultimately outstrips births.

“That’s what’s been driving what we call the browning of America,” said Johnson, who is Kenan Distinguished Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.

The county’s population of 969,031 includes 482,177 non-Hispanic whites, which make up 49.7 percent; 296,222 blacks (30.5 percent); 121,495 ethnic Hispanics (12.5 percent), and 48,100 Asians (4.9 percent).  The remainder is split between people reporting more than one ethnicity, Native Americans/Alaska natives and Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders.

Nationally, minorities represent 37 percent, or 116 million people, in the U.S. The African American population ballooned to 44.5 million, a 1.3 percent increase, third largest among ethnic groups. Asians are the fastest growing demographic, rising by 530,000 or 2.9 percent over the previous year, to 18.9 million.

“Asians and Hispanics have long been among our nation’s fastest-growing race or ethnic groups,” said Thomas Mesenbourg, the Census Bureau’s acting director.

Mecklenburg, like most of the South, continues to attract immigrants looking for work or start businesses in America. With non-union industries throughout the region and proximity to Mexico, Central and South America, the Southeast is now a major access point for newcomers.

“In the past, the immigrant gateways were in the Northeast, Midwest and on the West Coast,” Johnson said. “For the first decade of the new millennium and now in the beginning of the second decade, the South has been the primary destination for most migrants, domestic movers and international movers. Charlotte is a destination for immigration of people of color while the white population has been growing slowly.”

The influx of immigrants is also shuffling Mecklenburg’s political and economic map. The county is solidly Democratic as coalitions of blacks, young whites and Hispanics twice went for President Barack Obama and buying power between 2000-12 increased by 81 percent from $34 billion to $63 billion, according to a study by the Selig Center for Economic Growth in Athens, Ga. “Charlotte has always been an entrepreneurial city, unlike other cities that are going through this change, so I would anticipate a lot of recognition of the enormous consumer purchasing and spending power for those communities.”



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