The Population Confusion

August 22, 2021 Updated: August 23, 2021


Over the past few weeks, the American public has been told by all the leading news outlets and commentators that white America is on its deathbed as the country moves to a rainbow future led by an explosion of growth among Hispanics and Latinos.

While this is in line with the presently popular narratives of the coming demise of America’s white oppressors, it’s not at all in keeping with the facts. Indeed, the U.S. Census Bureau seems to have turned to magic in order to make the numbers fit the narrative.

For the 2020 Census, the Bureau reports a total U.S. population of 331 million, up about 6 percent from 308 million in 2010. Of these 331 million inhabitants, 204 million are said to be white. Another 31 odd million are white with some racial mixture making for 235 reported white Americans. The purely white number is reported to be down by a bit over 8 percent, but the number of mixed-race whites is up by nearly 10 percent. Thus, depending on to what extent mixed-race whites consider themselves more or less white, the decline in the white share of the total population isn’t really known but ranges from 8 to 3 percent.

That is just the appetizer for this report. The main course is the treatment of Hispanics and Latinos. Why we reserve a slot in the Census for them is a mystery. Hispanic and Latino aren’t racial identifications. A Hispanic person is someone with a Spanish-speaking background and a Latino is one with a background of speaking one of the languages of Latin origin that include French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Romanian, and Romansh. These languages are spoken by people of many different races. What’s the point of identifying some people by race and others by language? It seems to be comparing apples and oranges.

But wait. It gets better. In normal English, the term Latino refers to people whose language is a derivative of ancient Latin. French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Romanian speakers are all normally considered Latinos. But not by the U.S. Census, which defines Latinos as only those who come from a Spanish or Portuguese language background and may also be known as Hispanics. If your background is French, Italian, or Romanian you are automatically white or possibly black or Asian, but not Latino.

Please stay with me. The Census reports soaring increases in the numbers of Hispanic/Latino Americans and contrasts that with a dramatic decline of the white population. From 9 million in 2010, the population of multi-race Americans is reported as having soared 276 percent to 33.8 million souls in 2020. This suggests that America’s multi-racial population has been surging over the past 10 years. But that doesn’t jibe with the fact that the total population rose only 6 percent over the past 10 years.

The problem is with the construction of the Census Bureau’s survey and its interpretation. The 2020 survey gives elaborate choices to responders that weren’t available to responders in earlier surveys. For instance, a responder in 2020 could say he or she is all white or white in combination with some other race. This choice wasn’t available in earlier surveys. Thus, a person who might have reported him or herself as white in 2010 might have changed that to combination white in 2020. The number of people wouldn’t have changed, but the number of whites alone would show fewer in 2020 than in 2019. The storyline would become that whites are dying out when in fact the numbers haven’t changed that much.

Nowhere is this aspect of the Census report more egregious than in the sections dealing with Hispanics and Latinos. The overall survey shows this group increasing its share of the U.S. population from 16.3 to 18.7 percent, a significant increase but not earth-shattering. However, it then goes on to explain that the number of Hispanics and Latinos who identified as white has fallen by 52.9 percent from 26.7 million people to 12.6 million. This really looks as if either white Hispanics/Latinos in America are dying like flies or the number of new immigrants has been soaring over the past 10 years.

Can we confirm this by scanning recent annual Census reports? Well, actually, no, we can’t. The 2019 Census report says 38.3 million Hispanics/Latinos (65.5 percent of the entire group) reported themselves as white. Compare that to the 2020 report of only 12.6 million claiming to be white. Did 26 million white Hispanics/Latinos die between 2019 and 2020? No. We know that isn’t the case.

They changed their response to the new wording of the Census questionnaire. The dramatic shifts between 2010 and 2020 reported by the Census Bureau and loudly repeated by the press didn’t, in fact, occur. If Latinos/Hispanics all decide they feel white today, whites will forever constitute the American majority. If they continue to keep feeling more like some other race, whites may wind up as a minority. It all depends on how the Hispanics/Latinos feel about themselves.

Maybe it would be a good idea to drop the whole racial classification system. We’re all Americans with justice and freedom for all, aren’t we?

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Clyde Prestowitz
Clyde Prestowitz
Clyde Prestowitz is an Asia and globalization expert, a veteran U.S. trade negotiator, and presidential adviser. He was the leader of the first U.S. trade mission to China in 1982 and has served as an adviser to Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and Obama. As counselor to the secretary of commerce in the Reagan administration, Prestowitz headed negotiations with Japan, South Korea, and China. His newest book is "The World Turned Upside Down: America, China, and the Struggle for Global Leadership," which was published in January 2021.