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America's sweeping tide of diversity

Reproduced from a Brookings Institution map; Map: Axios Visuals

America is more racially diverse than at any point in history, and racial minorities are becoming more geographically dispersed than ever before.

Why it matters: Even before the 2020 census gets underway, recent population data makes it quite clear that rapidly expanding diversity will be the overarching theme of this century's demographic shift.

What's happening: Nationally, Hispanics and Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial minority groups, increasing by 18.6% and 27.4%, respectively, between 2010 and 2018, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution demographer Bill Frey, whose 2018 book "Diversity Explosion" outlined the country's majority-minority future.

  • They're moving beyond the large metro areas that have historically been popular with immigrants (New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco) to smaller cities across the country, including the Midwest and Northeast.
  • Black Americans are returning to the South, with Atlanta, Charlotte, Orlando and Dallas seeing big gains since 2010. Phoenix, Las Vegas and Seattle also registered substantial growth in their black populations.

Meanwhile: The nation's white population has grown only 0.1% since 2010 and is projected to decline over the next decade.

  • The map above appears to have large "white" areas where racial minorities are not highly represented. But these are small, less-populated areas where the white population is stagnating, per Frey's analysis.
  • Since 2010, 96% of all U.S. counties saw declines in shares of white population — and those declines aren't likely to be offset by white immigration from other countries or increased U.S. birth rates going forward.
  • "In the next 5–6 years, we're going to see an actual decline in white population," Frey told Axios, noting the shrinking share of the white population since 2000 among children under the age of 18. "In the next 10 years or so, the 20-something population will become minority white. It's happening from the bottom up of the age structure."

Between the lines: The white population's declining slice of the population pie is widely blamed for the rise of white nationalist extremism and anti-immigrant sentiment. But the demographics also show that diversity and immigration are key to future U.S. economic growth.

The bottom line: The country's rapidly changing racial makeup is exposing a growing cultural gap between generations.

  • "Baby boomers grew up in an era where America was mostly white, and the biggest racial minority was African Americans who were still mostly segregated," Frey noted. "Millennials and post-millennials are much more open to diversity and integration."

Go deeper: Six maps that reveal America's expanding diversity (Brookings Institution)