Census data shows communities of color are the new Nevada

Census data shows communities of color are the new Nevada
Las Vegas. Photo by Dani Molina on Unsplash

by April Corbin Girnus, Nevada Current
August 16, 2021

LAS VEGAS–Demographic changes in Nevada reflect larger national trends in the United States, newly released data from the Census Bureau shows.

Chief among those trends is a diversifying of the population, including a surge in the number of people identifying as multiracial.

Nationally, the percentage of the population that identifies as white dropped 8.6% between 2010 and 2020.

In Nevada, the group dropped 11.1%.

Whites remain the largest racial or ethnic group, representing 61.6% of the United States and 51.2% of Nevada.

In Clark County, 44.9% of the population identifies as white. Clark is the most diverse county in Nevada, and the 22nd most diverse county in the United States. (On the flip side, Lincoln County, just north of Clark, is the least diverse county in the state; 87.8% of its more than 5,000 residents are white.)

One decade ago — in 2010, when the last “complete count” decennial census was conducted — white people made up 72.4% of the country, 66.2% of Nevada and 60.9% of Clark County.

Those declines in population share were matched by surges in communities of color.

Not surprisingly, the biggest growth -- in terms of raw numbers -- occurred in the Hispanic or Latino population. Nevada added more than 173,000 Latinos to its population over the last decade. People identifying as Hispanic now make up 28.7% of the state’s population. That’s up from 26.5% in 2010.

Similarly, in Nevada:

  • Black or African Americans now make up 9.8% of the population, up from 8.1%
  • Asians make up 8.8% of the population, up from 7.2%
  • American Indian/Alaska Natives make up 1.4% of the population, up from 1.2%

Looking at the Census data another way: Nevada’s Black population grew by 39.4% over the past decade, Asians by 39.5%, American Indian and Alaska Natives by 37% and Hispanics by 24.3%.

But by far the biggest shift in population shares was among people who identify as multiracial. The number of Nevadans who identify as two or more races has more than tripled over the past decade.

Approximately 430,000 (or 14% of) Nevadans now identify as two or more races, up from approximately 126,000 (or 4.7% of) people in 2010. That’s a 244% change over a decade.

Similar shifts happened at the national level, with the exception of the Black population, which did not grow overall.

The Census Bureau’s Racial and Ethnic Diversity Index puts Nevada as the third most diverse state in the country, behind only California and Hawaii. According to the Census Bureau, there is a 68.8% chance that two Nevadans chosen at random will be from different racial and ethnic groups. (For comparison, there is a 75% chance of that happening in Hawaii and a 20.2% chance in Vermont.)

New data kickstarts redistricting process

Nevada was the fifth fastest growing state between 2010 and 2020, with the population increasing 15%. However, that was well below Nevada’s 35% growth between 2000 and 2010.

The Silver State’s total population now stands at 3.1 million.

Clark County now has more than 2.2 million residents. The county added more than 300,000 people over the last decade, a 16.1% change.

That growth rate was exceeded only by Nye County. The rural county, which includes Pahrump and Tonopah, saw a 17.4% change in its population over the last decade. Nye County went from almost 44,000 residents in 2010 to more than 51,000 in 2020.

In Northern Nevada, Washoe County saw a 15.4% change in population, adding 65,085 residents and bringing it to more than 480,000 residents.

Also reporting double digit growth percentages were nearby Lyon County, which saw a 14% population boost, and Elko County in the northwest corner of the state, which saw its population bump up 10%.

Populations in seven of Nevada’s rural counties dropped compared to a decade ago. Those declines ranged from a 15.8% drop in Lincoln County to a 0.7% drop in Lander County.

The Census Bureau population data, which was released Thursday, will be used by states to redraw political boundary lines -- from congressional districts down to local school boards. In Nevada, that power lies with the state Legislature, which is expected to have a special session sometime this fall to complete the process.

Democrats currently control the governorship and the Legislature, meaning the redistricting process is expected to be less contentious than it was a decade ago. In 2011, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed maps approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature, which sent the issue into the legal system.

Redistricting Data Hub, a nonpartisan group, analyzed census designated places (CDP) with the biggest changes in population to identify which areas are most likely to be affected by the upcoming redistricting process.

Topping their list was the Enterprise CDP, which encompasses the southwest part of the Las Vegas Valley. Enterprise’s population has almost doubled over the past decade, going from approximately 113,000 residents to 221,000.

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