Washington — Hispanic Americans make up the nation’s largest minority group, according to newly released findings of the U.S. census, a massive data-gathering project that helps define the future of the country’s democratic process.
The Census Bureau collected the data throughout 2010, mailing a survey or sending an agent to every household in the country to count how many people live there and collect other demographic data. The findings show a total population of 308.7 million people, 16 percent of whom are Hispanic.
The U.S. Constitution requires a national census be conducted every 10 years to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In the last decade, the Hispanic population grew by 43 percent, reaching 50.5 million by 2010. The more than 15-million-person growth in this ethnic group accounted for more than half of the nation’s overall growth through the decade. The non-Hispanic white population remains the largest group in the U.S. population with 196.8 million, which amounts to roughly 64 percent of the population. African Americans are the third-largest ethnic group, with about 13 percent of the total population, at 38.9 million. Asian Americans are the next largest group with about 14.7 million people, making up 5 percent of the total.
“We are approaching a new high point in the prevalence of U.S. residents who were born outside the country,” commented Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves in a blog. “The size of the foreign-born population has never been greater since the 1920s.”
The census serves as a cornerstone of U.S. democracy in that it provides data that form the basis for determining how legislative seats are apportioned in order to uphold the principle of one person, one vote. The number of members of the House of Representatives remains constant at 435, and each member will represent just more than 700,000 people. Eight states will get increased representation in the House because of the growth in their populations documented in the 2010 census. Ten states that have lost population will sacrifice seats to the growing states.
Since the initial announcement of the findings in December 2010, the Census Bureau has been conveying packages of data to each state government. The legislative bodies in each statehouse will examine the data and determine where to draw the lines to form congressional districts of roughly the same population size. These debates can be among the most contentious that state lawmakers undertake because political parties and interest groups are all vying to create districts that will maximize their voting strength, thus increasing their influence in policymaking.