The Washington region is gaining minorities at an even faster rate than the rapidly diversifying nation, according to census data releasedThursday, with Asian immigrants and Hispanic families leading the way.
The District saw a 14.6 percent increase in its Hispanic population from 2010 to 2012, jumping from 54,749 to 62,726, according to census data. D.C.'s Asian population grew 9.9 percent to nearly 23,239.
That outpaces the national average -- the U.S. Hispanic population grew 5.1 percent to 53 million from 2010 to 2012, while the Asian population grew 6.5 percent to nearly 16 million over the same period. More than 60 percent of Asian population growth came from immigration, the census said, while 76 percent of the Hispanic increase came from births.
The population of children younger than 5 who are minority is at 49.9 percent nationally, according to Census Bureau Acting Director Thomas Mesenbourg.
|The area's population breakdown|
|Source: U.S. census, 2012 statistics|
"The proportion of young children that is minority has been increasing since the 2010 census, and if this proportional growth continues, we expect that the crossover to majority-minority for this group will occur within the next couple of years," Mesenbourg said.
The census does not differentiate between legal and illegal immigrants.
D.C. came just shy of losing its black majority in 2012, with blacks making up 50.05 percent of its 632,323 residents, according to census data. Non-Hispanic whites made up 47.8 percent of Montgomery County's residents, while 46.6 percent of Fairfax residents are minorities.
The District's nearby suburbs are seeing a similar surge in Asian and Hispanic populations. Arlington County's Asian population grew by 7.3 percent to 21,508 in 2012, while its Hispanic population grew 8.4 percent to 34,011. Fairfax saw a 7.1 percent jump in Asian residents, up to 204,301, with a 6.8 percent increase in Hispanic residents, up to 179,918.
Washington's suburbs attract both groups with a resilient housing market and a relatively strong job market in government, medical and technical sectors, Howard University sociology professor Roderick Harrison said.
The well-paying jobs can attract highly educated immigrants, often Asian, which creates a need for more blue-collar workers, including many Hispanic residents, according to Harrison.
"You have a bifurcated minority population growing in these suburbs," he said. "The D.C. metro area has attracted a very highly educated professional labor force, and even through the recession, the job markets have remained very robust."
Both groups were instrumental in President Obama's battleground state win in Virginia, which relied heavily on Northern Virginia voters. Nearly two-thirds of Asians and Hispanics in Virginia voted for Obama in 2012.
In Montgomery County, the Asian population grew by 6.5 percent to 145,338, and the Hispanic population grew nearly 9 percent to 180,214. Prince George's County saw a 6.1 percent increase in Asian residents, up to 37,634, and a 7.4 percent increase in Hispanic residents, up to 138,547.
"Demographic-wise, we have a large Hispanic population now," said Andrea Harrison, chairwoman of the Prince George's County Council. "I would say that the demographic over the years has changed from a largely white and African-American community to what's basically a minority county."