"It's a done deal." That's how Kinder Institute's founding director, Stephen Klineberg has long described the Houston area's diversity, and the latest release from the Census Bureau just confirms that. The estimates, which include demographic data at the county level for 2017, detail the area's ongoing transformation.
In Houston's Harris County, while the Hispanic, Asian and black populations all increased from 2016 to 2017, according to the estimates, its white population decreased by an estimated 16,800 people, or roughly 1 percent. It's the second consecutive year that the number of white residents has dropped. It still hasn't fallen below where it was in 2010, however.
The area's trend toward a growing non-white population can be seen between 2016 and 2017 but a wider lens shows just how significant some of the change has been.
Between 2016 and 2017, for example, the black population grew by just 1 percent in Harris County, slightly ahead of the county's overall growth for the year, but that population has grown by 14 percent since 2010. Likewise, the Asian population grew by about 2 percent between 2016 and 2017 in Harris County, but 30 percent since 2010 and the Hispanic population also grew by about 2 percent between 2016 and 2017, but 19 percent since 2010.
Some of the most dramatic change has been in Montgomery County, the third largest in the metropolitan area. While still very white, the county has had fast growing Asian, black and Hispanic populations, both between 2016 and 2017 and 2010 and 2017. The Asian, black and Hispanic populations there increased by 9 percent, 8 percent and 6 percent respectively between 2016 and 2017. Offering another view of the trend, between 2010 and 2017, those numbers were 74 percent, 48 percent and 41 percent, well above the county's growth rate for that period.
National trends also reflect ongoing diversification.
"Nationwide, all race and ethnic groups, except for non-Hispanic whites, grew from 2016 to 2017. Asians were the fastest growing racial group at 3.1 percent," said Census Bureau demographer Molly Cromwell in a statement. "Those who identified as two or more races are the second fastest growing racial group in the nation, up 2.9 percent in 2017."
In Harris County, there was still no single majority but Hispanic residents of all races made up the largest racial or ethnic group with roughly 43 percent of the 2017 population. And while Asian residents only comprised about 10 percent of the county's population, that population grew the fastest between 2010 and 2017 with a 30 percent increase.
Fort Bend County more closely approaches an even split between the four largest racial and ethnic groups. The county is 33 percent white, 20 percent black, 20 percent Asian and 24 percent Hispanic, according to the latest release. Its Asian population, while the smallest of those four, was again the fastest growing, increasing by 51 percent between 2010 and 2017.
And while Montomgery County is still majority-white—at 66 percent—that number is significantly down from roughly 71 percent in 2010 and almost 90 percent in 1990.
The release also underscores that younger generations are driving the demographic shift occurring both locally and nationally.
"Those who identified as two or more races had the youngest median age of any race group at 20.4 years," said Jade Womack, a statistician with the bureau, of the national numbers in the release. "Both non-Hispanic white alone and white alone or in combination had the highest median ages at 43.5 years and 39.2 years."
All three counties were younger than the national median age of 38 years, but all three had, along with the country, gotten slightly older between 2010 and 2017, according to the estimates. Harris County's median age went from 32.2 years to 33.6 years in that time frame while Fort Bend County's median age increased from 35 years to 36.2. Montgomery County likewise aged, going from a median age of 36.1 years to 36.9 years.
The estimates supplement an earlier data release that suggested that Houston's suburban counties were powering the region's growth as well as another release that showed that though three of the top five cities with the biggest year over year population gains in 2017 were in Texas, Houston wasn't one of them. The mayor said he plans to challenge those estimates for Houston.