A non-Hispanic white origin refers to people who identify as white and do not have Hispanic or Latino ethnic origins. This demographic category emerged in the late 20th century in the United States as a way to differentiate between white Americans with European roots and white Americans with Hispanic roots from Latin America.
The U.S. Census Bureau first began asking about Hispanic origin on the 1970 census, and the category “non-Hispanic white” first appeared on the 1980 census. Prior to 1980, Americans of European descent were categorized simply as “white” on the census. The new “Hispanic” ethnicity category enabled the Census Bureau to differentiate between European whites and white Americans of Spanish origin or descent.
So in summary, non-Hispanic whites are Americans who identify as white and do not have ancestral ties to Spain or any Spanish-speaking Latin American countries. This is now a widely used demographic category in research, polling, and reporting on racial and ethnic data in the United States.
Background on U.S. Census racial and ethnic categories
To fully understand the non-Hispanic white category, it helps to understand the history of U.S. Census racial classifications.
The first U.S. census in 1790 counted white Americans and black slaves. Native Americans were not counted. From 1800-1840, the census also divided whites into “free white” persons and “slave whites.” In 1850, the black slave category changed to “black” or “mulatto” (mixed black and white).
In 1870, the census first began counting all U.S. residents, including Native Americans who were living among whites. But the racial categories remained limited to white, black, mulatto, Chinese, and Indian. There was no option for Hispanic/Spanish origin.
The 1890 census saw another change, with census takers instructed to no longer use the term “mulatto” and instead choose either black or white. The Asian category also changed from “Chinese” to “Chinese, Japanese, or Indians.”
In 1900-1920, Mexicans were still being classified as white on the census. The first major attempt to categorize Hispanics didn’t come until 1930, when the census added a new “Mexican” race option. However, census takers still counted most Hispanics as white.
It wasn’t until 1970 that the census introduced a specific ethnicity question about Hispanic origin. Respondents could choose “No” (not of Hispanic origin) or select a Hispanic origin like “Mexican, Mexican-Amer., Chicano,” “Puerto Rican,” or “Cuban.”
This set the stage for the 1980 census to introduce the new racial category of “Hispanic.” The Census Bureau determined that Hispanic origin should be treated as an ethnicity rather than its own distinct race, since Hispanics can be of any race.
That’s why on the modern U.S. census, there are two different questions – one asking about Hispanic/Latino/Spanish origin and a separate question about race. This enables the Census Bureau to break down Hispanic vs. non-Hispanic for each racial group, including whites.
Who is considered non-Hispanic white?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, non-Hispanic whites are self-identified whites who do not have ancestral or cultural ties to Spain or any Spanish-speaking country in Latin America.
This includes people who reported white as their only race, as well as white in combination with another race like white and black, white and Asian, etc. Both single-race and multi-race whites are considered non-Hispanic whites if they did not report any Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origins.
The vast majority of non-Hispanic whites (over 95%) self-report as white alone. Only a small percentage report being white mixed with another race.
Non-Hispanic whites include Americans with ancestral ties to:
– Any European country (e.g. Germany, Ireland, Italy, France, Britain, Russia, etc.)
– Middle Eastern or North African nation (e.g. Lebanon, Iran, Egypt, etc.)
– Any non-Spanish speaking country in the Americas (e.g. Canada, Haiti, etc.)
– North African countries like Morocco, Algeria, etc. that have European linguistic, ancestral or cultural roots.
Basically, non-Hispanic white is intended to encompass anyone of full or partial European descent who does not have direct Spanish colonial ties or identify with Hispanic culture.
Are White Hispanics considered non-Hispanic white?
No, White Hispanics are categorized differently than non-Hispanic Whites.
Hispanic origin and race are considered separately on the U.S. census. White Hispanics may racially identify as white, but ethnically they identify as being of Spanish-speaking Latin American origin.
So White Hispanics like those from Argentina, Colombia, or Spain are not included in the non-Hispanic white category. A person is only non-Hispanic white if they are of white racial identity and also do not identify ethnically as Hispanic or Latino.
Non-Hispanic white population and demographic trends
Non-Hispanic whites currently make up the largest single racial group in the United States. However, their proportion of the total population has declined over time.
Here are some key facts about the non-Hispanic white population based on 2020 U.S. Census data:
– Non-Hispanic whites total 195.7 million people or 60% of the U.S. population.
– The proportion of the U.S. population that is non-Hispanic white has decreased from 85% in 1965 to 60% in 2020.
– 17 states have a non-Hispanic white population between 50-60% of total population.
– 7 states have non-Hispanic white populations of over 70% (Maine, Vermont, West Virginia, Iowa, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho).
– Non-Hispanic whites have a median age of 44 compared to 29 for Hispanics, 35 for Blacks, 38 for Asians.
– U.S. population growth is slowest among non-Hispanic whites.
– Hispanic, Asian, Black and multi-racial populations are all growing faster than the non-Hispanic white population.
So in summary, non-Hispanic whites make up a slimmer majority in America today than decades ago. Rapid growth among Hispanic, Asian and other minority groups is steadily reducing the non-Hispanic white share of the population.
Factors driving demographic changes
There are several key factors driving the decline in non-Hispanic white population proportion:
– **Lower fertility rates:** On average, non-Hispanic white women have fewer children over their lifetime compared to Hispanic, Black, and Asian women. This results in slower population growth.
– **Increased interracial marriages:** Interracial marriages have risen significantly since 1967 when anti-miscegenation laws were ruled unconstitutional. Mixed race offspring of non-Hispanic whites reduce the proportion of the population that is single-race non-Hispanic white.
– **Immigration trends:** The majority of immigrants entering the U.S. today come from Latin America and Asia rather than Europe, increasing diversity.
– **Older age structure:** Due to lower fertility, the non-Hispanic white population in the U.S. is older on average and a larger share are retiring and dying.
Overall, demographic projections expect the non-Hispanic white proportion of the population to continue decreasing in future decades as minority groups grow more rapidly.
Non-Hispanic white population by state
There is significant variation in the non-Hispanic white population percentage by state across the U.S. Here is a table showing the 5 states with the highest and lowest proportions of non-Hispanic white residents based on 2020 Census data:
States with Highest Non-Hispanic White Population
|Non-Hispanic White Population
|Percent of State Population
States with Lowest Non-Hispanic White Population
|Non-Hispanic White Population
|Percent of State Population
As the data shows, the highest concentrations of non-Hispanic whites are in Northern New England, the Midwest, and Western states. The lowest proportions are in Hawaii, the Southwest, and coastal states with major metropolitan diversity.
These state variances reflect broader migration and settlement patterns over U.S. history, as well as differences in the timing and sources of immigration to each state. The non-white proportion is highest in gateway states for immigrants.
Social and political implications of demographic changes
The declining percentage of non-Hispanic white Americans has a number of social and political implications for the future of the country. Here are some of the key considerations:
– **Loss of majority status** – Non-Hispanic whites are projected to become less than 50% of the U.S. population in coming decades. This loss of majority status could have psychological impacts on white identity.
– **New inter-minority dynamics** – As whites shrink as a proportion of the population, relations between minority groups may become increasingly important in shaping politics and social relations.
– **Generational differences** – Younger generations of whites are much more racially and ethnically diverse than older generations. This generational shift could reduce racial prejudices.
– **Power shifts** – Growing minority populations may demand greater political representation and cultural inclusion. Traditionally white-dominated institutions may have to diversify.
– **Program funding** – Public funding priorities could shift as policymakers respond to the growth of non-white groups. More funding may target health, education, and other needs of minority populations.
– **Geographic divides** – Large geographic differences in diversity could increase regional social and political polarization. More minorities in urban areas produces contrasts with whiter rural areas.
Overall, the demographic changes underway are likely to produce new conversations and shifts in culture, politics, and power structures across American society. While challenging, diversity also produces opportunities for greater understanding, inclusion, and equity.
In summary, the designation “non-Hispanic white” refers to Americans who identify racially as white and do not have ancestral or cultural connections to Spanish-speaking Latin America. This demographic group emerged as a census category in the late 20th century as a way to differentiate European-descended whites from Hispanic/Latino whites.
The non-Hispanic white population still makes up a majority of the United States, but has declined substantially from 85% in 1965 to just above 60% today. Ongoing demographic shifts driven by lower fertility rates, immigration patterns, and generational change will likely result in non-Hispanic whites becoming a plurality or minority within a few decades. These trends have important social and political implications as diversity grows and racial power dynamics evolve across America.