Measuring America

Census data tells an interesting story about our increasingly multicultural country.
Multicultural Faces

© Jasmin Merdan / Moment / Getty Images

Over the last decade, the United States grew at its slowest rate since the 1930s, and minorities made up almost all of that population growth. These shifts aren’t surprising. The 2020 census bears out what demographers have been predicting for years. Between 2010 and 2020, Asian Americans experienced the highest population gains (36%) followed by Hispanic (23%) and Black (6%) Americans. In contrast, the White population dropped by 9% from 2010, increasing the overall racial and ethnic diversity of the country. Since this is the first time in U.S. history the census has shown an actual decline in the White population, a more thorough analysis of the recently released census data is needed. The actual story is more complicated.

At a first look, the “White alone” population accounted for 62% of all people living in the U.S., compared with 72% in 2010. White alone refers to people who identified themselves or other members of their household as solely White and not Hispanic. Nevertheless, the “White in combination” population surged 316% during the same period. These are people who identified with the White category and one or more other groups.

Why This Is Happening Now

First, the U.S. Census Bureau has warned that comparisons between 2020 census and 2010 census race data should be made with caution. That’s because the design of the questions for race and ethnicity changed. The Census Bureau also changed how responses were processed and coded. Thus, the change is not solely the result of changing demographics.

Second, intermarriage is playing a role. Simply, more White Americans are marrying and having children with someone of another race or ethnicity. Indeed, the data shows a significant decline in the number of White alone kids over the last decade. Among those 18 and older, the number of people who said they were White alone decreased by 5%. By contrast, the number of White alone individuals under 18 decreased by 20%. This may reflect a rising demographic trend in the decades ahead.

In the meantime, the White population is older than other groups and aging faster. For instance, 18% of White Americans are 65 and older compared with only 12% of Black Americans and just 8% of Hispanic Americans. An older population typically translates to lower birth rates and higher death rates, contributing to a slower growth of the population. Given the trend, the White population is likely to decrease even further in the coming years.

Local Population Changes

At the local level, the census data shows substantial variations across the country. During the last decade, 70% of metro areas experienced White population losses, including high-cost areas such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

California and Texas had the most metro areas with the largest losses in White alone population. For instance, the number of White alone Americans fell by 56% in McAllen, Texas, and 31% in the Los Angeles metro area. But this decrease in White population has a corollary: These areas are also among the fastest-growing multiracial areas. For example, the White in combination population is 34 times larger in McAllen, Texas, in 2020 than it was in 2010.

Most of the metro areas that gained White population from 2010 to 2020 are located in the Carolinas, reflecting a general shift of the population. The White population rose 78% in Myrtle Beach, S.C.-N.C.; 38% in Charlotte, N.C.-S.C.; 36% in Greenville, S.C.; 36% in Winston, N.C.; and nearly 20% in the Charleston, S.C., and Durham, N.C., metro areas. But these increases don’t reflect a decrease in diversity. In fact, non-White groups show roughly similar migration patterns. For instance, the Black population increased 42% in Myrtle Beach and 38% in Charlotte.

Why It Matters to Real Estate

Shifts in the demographics of a nation can have a large impact on the real estate market. Population changes lead to changing demand for housing. In the future, expect to see homeownership rates of fast-growing minority groups increase across the country, easing the homeownership rate gap between the White and minority population. Currently, minority households living in areas with a higher minority population are more likely to own a home than those living in other areas. In the future, minority groups will likely make gains in areas where their numbers are increasing. Time will show how the typical home buyer will change in the years ahead.

Opportunity Seized

For these immigrants, moving to the United States was a golden ticket, but personal initiative—and welcoming colleagues—paved their path to success.

The census uses broad strokes to paint a picture of an increasingly diverse nation. But the data doesn’t entirely capture the rich multiculturalism of the United States. We asked three members of the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2022 extended leadership team, all immigrants, to tell their stories. They are Andrew Barbar of Boca Raton, Fla., Natalie Davis of Greenwood Village, Colo., and Thai Hung Nguyen of Centreville, Va. 

Andrew Barbar

Andew Barbar, C2EX

  • Operating Principal, The Barbar Team, Keller Williams
  • Boca Raton, Fla.
  • Emigrated from: Jamaica
  • NAR Leadership Role: REALTOR® Party Disbursement Liaison

Hands down, my immigrant experience is a story of hope and opportunity. I grew up in Jamaica in the 1960s. In many ways, it was an ideal childhood. But in 1972, the country was drifting toward communism, and the island began to lose some of its intellectual capital. My father was involved in the political world, and physical safety at political rallies became a real concern. In 1973, when I was 11, we moved to the U.S., and in 1974, we established residency.

Our family is Lebanese—there’s a large Lebanese population in Jamaica—and real estate is big in our culture. My father was involved in land development, and I grew up in the business. Today, I own two Keller Williams market centers in Florida with about 400 agents total. I’m also a partner in KW France with about 50 offices and 2,500 agents in France and Monaco.

Growing up in Jamaica, there were many different cultures. We never labeled one another. You don’t have to forget your nationality or your culture to get along. You don’t even need to agree in order to love and respect one another. To me, that’s the critical element of any diversity effort: respect for others’ views. Diversity prevents blind spots, and it means everyone gets a shot. That said, I wouldn’t want to be put in a position because I’m from Jamaica or because of my Lebanese heritage—or for anything other than my drive and my talent.

Natalie Davis

Natalie Davis, CRS, SRES

  • Broker-owner, The Evolution Group
  • Greenwood Village, Colo.
  • Emigrated from: Jamaica
  • NAR Leadership Role: Member Services Liaison

I was adopted into my citizenship. My adoptive parents were my biological aunt and her husband. I came over in 1981 and was adopted in 1982. My entire upbringing, I’ve known that I was brought here to live the American dream. It’s a tremendous blessing, and I don’t take it lightly. Anything I do, I can’t just simply do it. It has to be excellent. It’s me that’s carrying the family flag.

In 2010, I got my real estate license because I wanted to become an investor. My dad always had five to seven properties that he was managing, and so my weekends involved tenant moveouts, painting, and repairs. I thought I would never want to be an investor. But when I moved to Colorado, I changed my mind. My husband said, “Well, then you have to get your real estate license,” and there was no turning back. I fell in love with helping people achieve their dream.

The Evolution Group is my brokerage. As of January, we’ll have nine agents, a transaction coordinator, and a marketing coordinator. A majority of my focus is not on sales. I’m a coach with Ninja Coaching, I do a lot of speaking and organizational strategy facilitation, and I teach NAR’s At Home with Diversity certification.

I love what NAR is doing in terms of diversity and inclusion, making it an intentional focus. It’s vital that we have that to reverse the impact of history. There’s a ton of talented individuals out there of different races, sexual orientations, and ethnicities—and those individuals didn’t always have a seat at the table. I don’t have a problem pulling up a chair and making sure my voice is heard, but that’s not the case for everyone.

I’ll be teaching NAR’s new “Bias Override” training, which takes a deeper dive into the emotional and physical aspects of overcoming implicit bias. People say to me, “I wish we had started this five years ago.” The fact is that five years ago, we weren’t able to have this conversation. Now we are. I hope the average member who’s not as engaged sees what we’re doing. To me it’s simple: Either you aim to be a good human or you don’t. Most people do, and we’re making the tools available to help.

Thai Hung Nguyen

Thai Hung Nguyen

  • Principal Broker, Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate Premier
  • Centreville, Va.
  • Emigrated from: Vietnam
  • NAR Leadership Role: Global Real Estate Liaison

During the war in Vietnam, my dad was the captain of a provincial reconnaissance unit, which worked with the CIA. In April 1975, just after U.S. troops left Vietnam, we were at a port ready to ship out. But my dad didn’t want to leave his team and the rest of our family behind, so we stayed.

My dad was imprisoned for 10 years. I had just started high school when he was released, and he knew there was no future in Vietnam for his family. We tried many, many times to escape the Communist regime. I personally tried 13 times. We had given up hope, until my dad heard about and applied for a humanitarian program to bring over political refugees. Our family arrived in the U.S. in 1993.

In 2003, real estate was booming, so I thought it would be easy to make extra money. I took that ride and quickly transitioned to full-time. But 2005–2006 was the turning point in our market. I went eight months without a transaction. That’s when I got involved in the association. At my first NAR conference, I was so impressed with the organization. I wondered, why were all these successful people giving away their secrets? I took one or two ideas and started doing those right away. Things started to turn at that eight-month point.

Being an immigrant has had a very strong effect on my career. I started out working with my own community. I didn’t know how to reach beyond that. It’s my association involvement that has helped me do that. If there were not inclusivity, I wouldn’t be here. If the local association didn’t extend that welcome to me, I would never have gone anywhere. I’m grateful to so many leaders who extended a hand to me in 2007–2008 and beyond.