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White population declining as Latinos climb

June 7, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
There's been a shift in the makeup of California's population since the year 2000. A new state report shows that while California's white population has declined, the Hispanic population has had a dramatic increase.The decline in California's white population from 2000 to 2008 is so big, it's hastening the day that Latinos will be the state's largest population group.

The Department of Finance study shows California's white population is declining at a much faster rate than previously thought, paving the way for Latinos to surpass whites as the largest racial demographic by 2016.

"We actually think that Hispanics will be the majority or over 50 percent of the population in California in the year 2042," said Mary Heim, the California Dept. of Finance chief demographer.

In 2008, California's white population declined by half a million from 2000 to 15.5 million.

Over the same period, the number of Hispanics grew by more than 3 million to just over 14 million.

"For the first time, for the white population, we're actually seeing natural decrease; the number of deaths to whites is higher than the number of births to whites," said Heim.

The average age for whites in California is 44; for Latinos, it's much younger, at 28.

University of California-Davis Chicano Studies Chairwoman Adela De La Torre thinks the controversial Arizona law was partly spurred by the trend of population growth among Latinos here and nationwide.

"I think the backlash in Arizona has largely to do with not just the issue of the border, but with the concern of non-Hispanic whites recognizing that they will soon not be the majority," said De La Torre.

De La Torre warns state leaders have to address issues that come with a rising Latino population: the dropout rate is higher, and voter participation is lower within this group.

"The net result is a lot of our policy today doesn't include the voices of the new Latino majority. So we're going to have policies that are going to be disconnected to the needs of a very large constituency," said De La Torre.

Another contributing factor to the decline in the white population was the real-estate market. More whites left California to find cheaper housing than the number that moved in.

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