The United States is a diverse country racially and ethnically. White Americans are the racial majority and are spread throughout the country; racial and ethnic minorities, composing one fourth of the population, are concentrated in coastal and metropolitan areas. The Black American or African American population is concentrated in the South, and also spread throughout parts of the Northeast and Midwest. Black Americans make up the largest racial minority in the United States.
White Americans make up 74% of the total population per the 2006 American Community Survey (ACS). Black Americans compose 13.5% of the population. Asian Americans are concentrated in the Western states; 47% of them reside there, mostly in California and Hawaii, but nationwide prevalence is around 4.4%. Half of the American Indian population resides in the West; there were 4.1 million in 2000, including those of partial ancestry.
The Inuit population is mainly found in Alaska, and more than three quarters of the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population is found in the West, mostly in Hawaii and California. The population of those described as "two or more races" resides mostly in the West and South, where a combined 69% of all multiracial Americans reside. Americans of "Some other race" — a catchall, non-standard category almost all of whose members are reclassified as white in official documents — are nearly all Hispanic or Latino in ancestral or national origin, and 44% lived in the West in 2006.
Hispanic and Latino Americans form 14.8% of the total population, they form a racially and ethnically diverse ancestral group, constituting the nation's largest collated ancestral minority. Hispanics and Latinos are most concentrated in the West, where they represent 27% of the population, corresponding to 43% of the group's population nationwide.
In the 2000 census, Americans self-described as belonging to these racial groups:
The question on Hispanic or Latino origin is separate from the question on race. Hispanic Latino Americans have origins in the Hispanophone countries of Latin America. Many respondents with Spain as their ancestral land also select this category, although they are not overtly included in the Government's definition. Self-identifying as being Hispanic or Latino and not Hispanic or Latino was neither explicitly allowed nor explicitly prohibited. On the Race question, Hispanic and Latino Americans choose from among the same categories as all Americans: no separate racial category exists for Hispanic and Latiano Americans, as they do not make up a separate race. Thus each racial category contains Non-Hispanic or Latino and Hispanic or Latino Americans. For example: the White race category contains Non-Hispanic Whites and Hispanic Whites (White Hispanics); the Black or African American category contains Non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanic Blacks (Black Hispanics); and likewise for all the other categories. See the section on Hispanic and Latino Americans in this article.
The majority of the 300 million people currently living in the United States consists of White Americans, who trace their ancestry to the original peoples of Europe. Fifty-three percent of white Americans are of colonial ancestry, and 47 percent are the descendants of ancestors who came to America after 1790. Approximately 23 percent of white Americans are of English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh descent. Eighty-six percent of U.S. whites are of Northwestern European ancestry, and 14 percent are of Southern and Eastern European extraction.
White Americans are the majority in forty-nine of the fifty states, with Hawaii as the exception. The District of Columbia, which is not a state, also has a non-white majority. Non-Hispanic Whites, however, are the majority in forty-six states, with Hawaii, New Mexico, California, and Texas, as well as the District of Columbia, as the exceptions. The latter five have "minority majorities", i.e. minority groups are a majority of their populations.
The non-Hispanic White percentage (68 in 2006) tends to decrease every year, and this sub-group is expected to become a plurality of the overall US population after the year 2050. However, White Americans overall (non-Hispanic Whites together with White Hispanics) will remain the majority, at 73.1% (or 303 million out of 420 million) in 2050, from 80% in 2006 (per the Population Estimates Program, not the ACS; it is 76% in the ACS, as previously noted).
Even though a high proportion of the population has two or more ancestries, only slightly more than one ancestry was stated per person. This means that the percentages listed are significantly dependent on subjective perception of which of several ancestry lines is relevant.
A large number of individuals (7.2% of the U.S. population) listed their ancestry as American on the 2000 census (see American ethnicity). According to the United States Census Bureau, the number of people in the U.S. who reported American and no other ancestry increased from 12.4 million in 1990 to 20.2 million in 2000. This increase represents the largest numerical growth of any ethnic group in the United States during the 1990s.
The descendants of Dutch and Hanoverian settlers, whose countries were non-simultaneously in personal union with the British monarchy, often identify with the successor countries today, namely Netherlands and Germany. This helps colonial diasporas fit in more with current nations. (See British American).
The largest Central European ancestry was Polish (both Catholic Poles and Ashkenazi Jews), and the largest Eastern European ancestry was Russian (includes a recent influx of Ashkenazi Jews). There were other significant ancestries from Central, Eastern and Southern Europe, as well as from French Canada. Most who registered as French American are descended from colonists of Catholic New France — exiled Huguenots quickly assimilated into the relevant British population of the Thirteen Colonies and were immediately seen and self-regarded as subjects of the Crown under the old Plantagenet claim.
Other ethnic European origins included are Dutch/Flemish, Lithuanian, Latvian, former Yugoslavs, Greek, Hungarian, Portuguese, Czech, Slovak, Australian, and New Zealander. A comparatively small fraction of recent immigrants are non-Hispanic whites, but the largest numbers come from Canada, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. In addition to direct Spanish ancestry, including the Isleños of Louisiana and the Hispanos of the Southwest, most White Hispanics are of Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban ancestry.
According to the 2006 ACS, there are 1.5 million Arab Americans, accounting for 0.5% of the American population. The largest subgroup was by far the Lebanese Americans, with 481,675, and 3 million descendants, nearly a third of the Arab American population. Most Lebanese descend from immigrants of the late 18th century through the early 19th century. Over 1/4 of all Arab Americans claimed two ancestries, having not only Arab ancestry but also non-Arab. Among them, 14.7% reported Irish, 13.6% reported Italian, and 13.5% reported German ancestry in the 2000 census. Assyrians were also listed in the US census under Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac.
About 13.5% of the American people are Black or African American, most of whom are primarily descendants of Africans who lived through the Slavery era in the U.S. between 1619 and the 1860s and were emancipated during the American Civil War. Black Americans are the largest racial minority as opposed to Hispanics and Latinos, who are the largest "ethnic" minority. The historical national origin of the majority of Black Americans is untraceable, as most African nations were named centuries after they arrived in the United States; the continent of Africa serves as an indicator of geographic origin and a descriptive term. Starting in the 1970s, the black population has been bolstered by immigration from the Caribbean, especially Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Belize, Barbados and the Dominican Republic, as well as from South America, primarily from Guyana, Brazil, Panama, Colombia, and Venezuela. More recently, starting in the 1990s, there has been an influx of African immigrants to the United States, due to the instability in political and economic opportunities in various nations in Africa.
Historically, most African Americans lived in the Southeast and South Central states of Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Since World War I there occurred the Great Migration of rural black Americans to the industrial Northeast, urban Midwest and, in a smaller wave, to the West Coast that lasted until 1960. Today, most African Americans (56%) live in the Southern US and in urban areas, but are increasingly moving to the suburbs. Historically, any person with any sub-Saharan African ancestry, even if they were mostly white, were designated and classified as "black", according to the "one drop theory," by which any Black African ancestry made the person "black" in legal sense. Today, the US census in law and practice does not declare any person to belong in any race or ethnicity without the prior consent of that person.
A third significant minority is the Asian American population, comprising 13.1 million in 2006, or 4.4% of the U.S. population. California is home to 4.5 million Asian Americans, whereas 512,000 live in Hawaii, where they compose the plurality at 40% of the islands' people. Asian Americans live across the country, and are also found in large numbers in New York City, Chicago, Boston, Houston, and other urban centers. It is by no means a monolithic group. The largest groups are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from the Philippines, China, India, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, South Korea and Japan. While the Asian American population is generally a fairly recent addition to the nation's ethnic mix, relatively large waves of Chinese, Filipino and Japanese immigration happened in the mid to late 1800s.
Multiracial Americans numbered 6.1 million in 2006, or 2.0% of the population. They can be any combination of races (White, Black or African American, Asian, American Indian or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, "Some other race") and ethnicities. The U.S. has a growing multiracial identity movement. Miscegenation or interracial marriage, most notably between whites and blacks, was deemed immoral and illegal in most states in early centuries. Demographers state that the American people are mostly multi-ethnic descendants of various immigrant nationalities culturally distinct until assimilation and integration took place in the mid 20th century.
Indigenous peoples of the Americas, such as American Indians and Inuit, made up 0.8% of the population in 2006, numbering 2.4 million. An additional 1.9 million declared part-Native American or American Indian ancestry. The legal and official designation of who is Native American by descent aroused controversy by demographers, tribal nations and government officials for many decades. The blood quantum laws are complex and contradictory in admittance of new tribal members, or for census takers to accept any respondent's claims without official documents from the US Bureau of Indian Affairs. Genetic scientists estimated that over 15 million other Americans may be one quarter or less of American Indian descent.
Once thought to face extinction in race or culture, there has been a remarkable revival of Native American identity and tribal sovereignty in the 20th century. The Cherokee are at 800,000 full or part-blood degrees. 70,000 Cherokee live in Oklahoma in the Cherokee Nation, and 15,000 in North Carolina on remnants of their ancestral homelands. The second largest tribal group is the Navajo, who call themselves "Diné" and live on a 16-million acre (65,000 km²) Indian reservation covering northeast Arizona, northwest New Mexico and southeast Utah. It is home to half of the 450,000 Navajo Nation members. The third largest group are the Lakota (Sioux) Nation located in the states of Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Wyoming; and North and South Dakota.
Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders numbered 426,194 in 2006, or 0.14% of the population. Additionally, nearly as many report partial Native Hawaiian ancestry, for a total of 813,474 people of full or part Native Hawaiian ancestry. Despite these numbers, which show that just more than half are "full-blooded", most Native Hawaiians on the island chain of Hawaii are said to be highly mixed with Asian, European and other ancestries. Only 1 out of 50 Native Hawaiians can be legally defined as "full blood" and some demographers believe that by the year 2025, the last full-blooded Native Hawaiian will die off, leaving a culturally distinct, but racially-mixed population. However, there is more individual self-designation of what is Native Hawaiian than before the US annexed the islands in 1898. Native Hawaiians are receiving ancestral land reparations. Throughout Hawaii, the preservation and universal adaptation of Native Hawaiian customs, Hawaiian language, cultural schools solely for legally Native Hawaiian students, and historical awareness has gained momentum for Native Hawaiians.
In the 2000 census, this non-standard category was intended to capture responses such as Mestizo and Mulatto, two multiracial groups to which many Hispanics and Latinos belong. However, responses that are not on the Census choice boxes such as "Cornish", "Catalan", "Romany", "Jewish", "Moroccan", "Belizean", "Brazilian", "South African" and "Southerner/Southern American", were also given in this category. In 2006, 6.4% of the total U.S. population were estimated to be "Some other race", with 97% of them being Hispanic or Latino.
Due to this category's non-standard status, statistics from government agencies other than the Census Bureau (for example: the Center for Disease Control's data on vital statistics, or the FBI's crime statistics), but also the Bureau's own official Population Estimates, omit the "Some other race" category and include the people in this group in the white population, thus including the vast majority (about 90%) of Hispanic and Latino Americans in the white population. For an example of this, see The World Factbook, published by the Central Intelligence Agency.
Americans of Hispanic origin do not form a race but an ancestral group known as "Hispanic or Latino", the largest ancestral minority in the country, composing 14.8% of the population in 2006. Mexican Americans made up 64% of this number, or 28 million, followed next by Puerto Rican Americans with 4 million. The Hispanic or Latino category is based on ancestral or national origin, not race, and is defined by the government as people "who classify themselves in one of the specific Hispanic or Latino categories listed on the Census 2000 or ACS questionnaire - "Mexican," "Puerto Rican," or "Cuban" - as well as those who indicate that they are "other Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino."" (ACS refers to the American Community Survey.) The inclusion of Spain was explicit in the 1990 census, but not so in the 2000 census and the American Community Survey definitions, although the term "Spanish", formerly used for the Hispanic or Latino group ("Persons of Spanish Origin", "Persons of Spanish Surname", etc) was retained, in "Spanish/Hispanic/Latino".
Hispanic and Latino Americans may be of any race. Their racial breakdown in 2006 was as follows: 52.3% White; 41.2% "Some other race"; 3.9% Two or more races; 1.4% Black or African American; 0.75% American Indian or Alaska Native; 0.35% Asian; and 0.09% Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.
The "Some other race" respondents usually identify by their national origin only (e.g. "Mexican", "Salvadoran", "Colombian" and 20 other nationalities). In Census 2000 data, the "some other race" category overlaps by 97% with the Hispanic/Latino category, suggesting that this group is virtually the only one using the category.
The spectacular growth of the Hispanic population through immigration and higher birth rates are noted as a partial factor for the US’ population gains in the last quarter-century. The Bureau of the Census projects that by 2050 one-quarter of the population will be Hispanic. Bureau figures show the U.S. population grew by 2.8 million between July 1, 2004, and July 1, 2005. Hispanics accounted for 1.3 million of that increase.
|1790 U.S. Ancestry
Based on Evaluated census figures
|2000 U.S. Ancestry|
| % of
| % of
|Swedish or other||20,000||0.5||Norwegian||4,477,725||1.6|
|British Isles (Total)||2,700,000||67.5||Scotch-Irish||4,319,232||1.5|
|Hispanic (of any race)||15 %||30%|
Immigration to the United States is what has produced its diverse population of today, and will continue to change its ethnic and racial makeup. A 2008 report from the Census Bureau projects that by 2042, non-Hispanic whites will no longer make up the majority of the population. This is a revision of earlier projections which projected this demographic change to take place in 2050.
Today, non-Hispanic whites make up about 68% of the population. This is expected to fall to 46% in 2050. The report foresees the Hispanic population rising from 15% today to 30% by 2050. Today African Americans make up 12% of the population, in 2050 they are projected to comprise 15% of the population. Asian Americans make up 5% of the population today and they are expected to make up 9% in 2050. The U.S. has nearly 305 million people today.
The population is projected to reach 400 million by 2039 and 439 million in 2050. (A better citation would be preferred here. You can help Wikipedia by providing one.)