Census data shows that Black people are moving to the Western United States in larger numbers, after the number of Black people in Western states has historically remained low.
Out of the West’s contiguous 11 states, nine recorded a double-digit percentage growth in Black population. Nationally, 21 states in total recorded double-digit growth in the Black population, according to an analysis by USA Today. According to 2020 census data, the nationwide population of Black people stands at about 12.4 percent.
In Idaho, the state that recorded the largest proportional increase in Black population, the number grew by 60 percent. But in some cities, the rate of growth was even more pronounced. For instance, in Twin Falls, Idaho, the Black population grew by 174 percent, which equates to an increase of about 701 people in the relatively small city.
States with the largest number of new Black residents include Nevada, Arizona and Washington. Similarly, Western cities like Las Vegas, Phoenix and Seattle ranked in the top 12 states nationally in terms of Black population growth.
Las Vegas and Phoenix added 80,000 and 70,000 Black people respectively, doubling the number of Black people in each metro area. Notably, California was the only Western state to lose Black residents.
The trend is reflected broadly among different ethnic groups as the population continues to disperse and as new centers for economic opportunity emerge.
Even the drop in the Black population in California can be seen among other races: California’s population shrank overall 2020, the first decline since the year 1900.
In general, the census data showed that the U.S. population is becoming increasingly ethnically diverse as the the white non-Hispanic population dropped by 8.6 percent in the last 10 years, while Asian and Hispanic populations increased.
“These changes reveal that the US population is much more multiracial, and more racially and ethnically diverse, than what we measured in the past,” said Nicholas Jones, the director of race, ethnicity, research and outreach for the Census Bureau’s population division.
Despite the increasing number of Black people moving west, the South still boasts the highest Black population in the nation and saw the highest Black population growth rate since 2010.
The South’s numbers reflect a reversal of a phenomenon from half a century ago, when Black people had been moving out of the South for decades. Between 1916 and 1970, 6 million Black Americans relocated from Southern to Northern states during the Great Migration.
Some people left to escape the brutality of Jim Crow in the South, while others sought economic opportunities in the North.
In recent decades, the trend of Black people moving back to the South has been driven by college-educated Black people and Baby Boomers and fueled by desire for familiarity, affordability and economic opportunity.
As populations continue to shift, Black-majority cities are on the rise, according to the Brookings Institution.
Although the share of Black-majority cities has increased since 1970, the change is due primarily to people moving between cities rather than a growth in the overall proportion of the Black population. The varied-class cities are both urban and rural, new and old, and reflective of a broader quest for opportunity and sustainability.