Census data shows blacks are moving to the western United States in greater numbers, after the number of blacks in western states has remained historically low.
Of the 11 contiguous western states, nine have seen double-digit percentage growth in the black population. Nationally, a total of 21 states have seen double-digit growth in the black population, according to a USA Today analysis. According to 2020 census data, the national black population is around 12.4%.
In Idaho, the state with the largest proportional increase in the black population, the number increased by 60%. But in some cities the growth rate was even more pronounced. For example, in Twin Falls, Idaho, the black population increased by 174 percent, which equates to an increase of about 701 people in the relatively small town.
The states with the most new black residents are Nevada, Arizona, and Washington. Likewise, western cities like Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Seattle rank in the top 12 states nationally in terms of black population growth.
Las Vegas and Phoenix added 80,000 and 70,000 blacks, respectively, doubling the number of blacks in each metropolitan area. Notably, California was the only western state to lose black residents.
The trend is largely reflected among different ethnic groups as the population continues to disperse and new centers of economic opportunity emerge.
Even the decline in the black population in California can be seen among other races: California’s population overall declined in 2020, the first decline since the year 1900.
In general, census data has shown that the U.S. population is increasingly ethnically diverse, as the non-Hispanic white population has fallen 8.6% over the past 10 years, while the Asians and Hispanics have increased.
“These changes reveal that the American population is much more multiracial and more racially and ethnically diverse than what we measured in the past,” said Nicholas Jones, director of race, ethnicity, research and outreach for the Census Bureau’s Population Division.
Despite the growing number of blacks moving west, the South still has the highest black population in the country and has seen the highest black population growth rate since 2010.
The figures from the South reflect a reversal of a phenomenon of half a century ago, when blacks had left the South decades ago. Between 1916 and 1970, 6 million black Americans moved from the southern states to the northern states during the Great Migration.
Some people left to escape Jim Crow’s brutality in the South, while others sought economic opportunities in the North.
In recent decades, the trend of blacks returning to the South has been driven by college-educated blacks and baby boomers and fueled by the desire for familiarity, affordability, and economic opportunity.
As populations continue to change, majority black cities are on the rise, according to the Brookings Institution.
Although the share of majority black cities has increased since 1970, the change is mainly due to the movement of people between cities rather than a growth in the overall proportion of the black population. Cities of diverse classes are both urban and rural, new and old, and reflect a broader quest for opportunity and sustainability.