Population of the United States by Race and Hispanic/Latino Origin

Updated September 9, 2022 | Infoplease Staff

The breakdown of the country by race

The United States has had a pretty complicated history with different racial groups. Ever since the first census, the Census Bureau has tracked different racial groups  (in the 1790 census, for the sake of allocating votes according to the Three-Fifths Compromise). We continue to track different racial and ethnic groups today. Here are the results from the 2000 and 2010 census of how the US population is divided. 

The Census Bureau also tracks changes in the population through the American Community Survey, as a way of gathering useful or important data between the ten year censuses. Many organizations make population projections based on the survey. We're just going to use the census data, since the census proper is the most official count in the country. Click here if you want to see how the population of the United States breaks down by other metrics like age groups.

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Race and Hispanic/Latino origin Census 2010,

Percent of

Census 2000,

Percent of

Total Population 308,745,538 100.0% 281,421,906 100.0%
Single race
White 196,817,552 63.7 211,460,626 75.1
Black or African American 37,685,848 12.2 34,658,190 12.3
American Indian and Alaska Native 2,247,098 .7 2,475,956 0.9
Asian 14,465,124 4.7 10,242,998 3.6
Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander 481,576 0.15 398,835 0.1
Two or more races 5,966,481 1.9 6,826,228 2.4
Some other race 604,265
15,359,073 5.5
Hispanic or Latino 50,477,594 16.3 35,305,818 12.5

Source: U.S. Census Bureau: National Population Estimates; Decennial Census.

Note: Percentages do not add up to 100% due to rounding and because Hispanics may be of any race and are therefore counted under more than one category.

The Census Categories

Due to how confidently people use racial categories, it's easy to assume they're based on some firm grounding principle. However, as with all censuses, the categories used in the U.S. Census are chosen and revised each cycle to reflect the divisions that are considered relevant. That is to say, the reason that the Census Bureau tracks "American Indian and Alaska Native" and doesn't track categories like "Arab" isn't because there's some scientific reason that "Indian" is a race and "Arab" is not. It's because at the time of the 2010 census it was decided that the status of American Indian was important to keep track of for demographic purpose, and that Arab was not. After the boom in immigration from Latin America in the mid-20th century, the United States decided that the hispanic population was important to track. Population growth and cultural changes mean different minority groups will likely be added in the future as policymakers decide it's relevant.

For a comparison, consider these categories from the comparable U.K. 2011 Census.

How the Category of "Hispanic" Has Evolved

The Hispanic category in the census has changed throughout the decades. Except for a one-time "Mexican" race category in 1930, the first attempt to track the population that was "Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American," or "Other Spanish" was in 1970. In that year and in the next three censuses, the census bureau kept receiving a great deal of erroneous responses, so they redesigned the question for greater clarity. In 1970, some people from the Midwest or the South mistakenly identified as "Central or South American," and many more did not identify themselves with the target nationalities despite being of Latin American descent. The most recent census, which introduced the wording of "Latino," saw a significant upturn in responses from U.S.-born Latino persons and people from non-Spanish speaking Latin America. 

The term Latino itself has a bit of complications. Aside from the gender debate (in Spanish, plural nouns are always masculine) Latino people can be white, amerindian, black, or any other sort of racial identity. In most Latin American countries, a majority of people are identified as mestizo, mixed- or multiracial. Lots of data gathering forms will either specify "non-hispanic white" as a way of tracking the white population, or they will have a separate checkbox for hispanic origin. 

Some States of Interest

The American population is very irregular across the country. Generally speaking, the states of the Northeast and Midwest have the smallest non-white populations. The states with the highest white population by percentage are Maine, Vermont, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Montana, Iowa, North Dakota, Kentucky, Wyoming, and South Dakota. 

The South and Southwest typically have the largest non-white population, as well as Hawaii due to its large Asian and Pacific Islander populations. The states with the highest non-white population by percentage are Hawaii, California, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, Maryland, Georgia, Florida, Arizona, New Jersey, and New York. The District of Columbia, although not a state, is also majority non-white; Washington, DC, were it a state, would rank second on this list.

Check out our state profiles to see how the demographics break down in each state.

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