The Census Bureau has begun to share information from the 2020 Census. Some of the headlines we’re seeing on this new data include the fact that the population of the U.S. hasn’t grown as slowly as it did over the past decade since the 1930s. Texas grew and California’s population shrank. But one of the most frequently reported changes is sometimes being reported as a decline in the white population in the United States.

That’s not quite accurate. Here’s a more correct statement: the percentage of people who describe their race as “white” is now just about 58% of Americans.

For the first time, three states (Hawaii, California, and New Mexico), plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., do not have a majority of their populations describing themselves as white.

In some cases, this probably reflects a change in the ethnic makeup of the people of the state. For example, 39% of Californians said they were white in 2010. In 2020, 35% did so. With Latinos increasing to 23% of the people in the United States, and Asian Americans increasing faster than any other group, that probably means that fewer of the people living in California are white.

Puerto Rico on the 2020 census

In Puerto Rico, however, nearly 80% of residents described themselves as white in 2010. Just over 17% did so in 2021. This is probably not an enormous change in the ethnic makeup of the Island. It’s probably a big change in how people describe themselves.

Why would that happen? One reason is that the Census gave more options. Across the nation, three times as many people described themselves as belonging to more than one race. With an increase in multiracial marriages, there probably are more multiracial people in the United States. But having the choice to give more information on the census form is probably part of the reason, too.

Another important reason: activists from organizations like Colectivo Ilé worked hard to persuade people in Puerto Rico to describe themselves in different ways. They had a goal to bring the number of people saying they were only white down below 70%, in hopes of providing a more accurate image of the Island and a more politically useful one.

Did this decision, taken by millions of people, affect the results of the 2020 Census?

Respected news outlets missed it

We say yes. 1.6 million people deciding to describe themselves as white and another race would affect the data.

But NPR didn’t even mention Puerto Rico in their extensive article examining the question. Some mainstream news articles did bring up Puerto Rico in their examples, but many did not. One major news outlet mentioned DNA tests from companies like Ancestry.com as a reason more people described themselves as multiracial. Several others opined that it’s cool to be multi-ethnic. Seeing one population with strikingly different numbers should have made it into the news.

But Puerto Rico doesn’t always make it into the news, even when it seems obvious that Puerto Rico is relevant and important to a story.

Could it be that the reason for this is the same reason that Puerto Rico is often not mentioned in social studies text books in the states? The same reason that some people still don’t even know that Puerto Ricans are citizens of the United States?

Puerto Rico is not a state

We keep hearing that changes in funding for this program or that will make Puerto Rico more like a state. That we will be treated in this program or that just as states are treated. That being a state will not really be very different from being a territory.

But being a territory is not the same as being a state. Often, it means being overlooked. Overlooked in news stories, but also sometimes overlooked in federal funding, in updates to laws, and in other ways that have more practical effects on day to day life. Statehood is the only path to equality for Puerto Rico.

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2 Responses

  1. Statehood for Puerto Rico starts with the elimination and eradication of the “fake” and false PR Olympic Team: To Comite Olympico de PR: Puerto Ricans are US Citizens. Puerto Rico is a US Jurisdiction (A Territory of the USA). Puerto Rico is not an Independent Sovereign Nation and should have never been allowed to have an Olympic Team that only serves to promote Independence and a false sense of Nationalism for Puerto Ricans and to foment disloyalty against the USA which is truly our Nation. The (International Olympic Committee) IOC has been through history an organization that has promoted and supported Nazi Germany, Communist Cuba, always supporting Communist Regimes in the old Soviet Union and China. Needless to say for the IOC to allow an Olympic Team for PR is their way of supporting and promoting independence for PR and a way for the IOC to continue their anti American propaganda. Puerto Ricans as US Citizens serve along their brothers and sisters from Continental USA in the US Armed Forces and Puerto Ricans also should compete in the USA Team along and with their brothers and sisters from all 50 US states and other territories. There should be no Olympic Team for PR after all PR is not an Independent Sovereign Nation. Invest in Sports in PR and of course we all support our athletes but they need to learn that they are Americans and US Citizens and that their one and only country is the USA. PR can not continue to falsely parade in the Parade of Nations at the Olympics because PR is not a Nation. What kind of message we send to the world and our fellow Americans across the USA, are we telling them that we are or want to be an independent Republic or Nation??? Of Course, and the IOC knows this and that is why under the false invented concept of Sports citizenship (something that has zero political standing) the IOC continues to support Independence for PR by allowing this PR team to exist. Also, the USA should have never allowed the IOC to get away with this…only if they knew that this local PR Olympic Team would become the largest source of disloyalty against the USA in PR. Again this message is not Political, I am not supporting Statehood in this message, I am only trying to promote loyalty to our Nation the USA for the US Citizens in PR under the current territorial Status. Finally, There is no space for two Olympic Teams, that is one for PR and one for the USA and let the athletes choose..that is a false premise, because PR is not an independent sovereign nation and the Puerto Ricans are US Citizens and 100 percent of them should compete for USA and support their USA Nation. Lastly the IOC may have leverage and do what they want with regards to these teams but they do not have the right to deceive the PR people and to continue their support of Independence for PR. And please do not tell me the IOC is apolitical…yes, they have only backed Fidel Castro, Hitler back in the day, Russia and China against the wishes of the USA. Everything the IOC does has a political tone, and granting a Team to PR is their way to say we support independence for Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans almost 100 percent do not want independence..,only if the folks in PR knew what the IOC is really pushing for. End of Text…just a personal opinion, hopefully somebody in the PR Olympic Committee read this…not looking for a response either…just trying to tell the truth as it is and this is my personal opinion of course. But folks in PR and if you support Statehood for PR…this needs to happen…we can call it “course correction” but eliminating the fake and ilegal PR Olympic Team right now is needed to achieve Statehood, we need to teach our PR Athletes that they are indeed American Citizens first and foremost. God Bless the USA! And PR 51st.!

    • Mr. Pomales,

      Completely Agree. In addition, there is a disconnect between some pro-Statehood supporters and their actions. True Statehood supporters should unapologetically advocate to:

      1- Embrace the USA flag and what it means for all, particularly our courageous military.
      2- Transition to an all English curriculum in the PR public school system starting first grade and each year after that. Transition will be completed and stable in 12 years.
      3- Stop pettiness and have a local working legislature.
      4- Stop corruption of special interests.
      5- Stop wasting federal funds locally.
      6- Pursue True Social Justice by:
      Fixing the PR education Dept – Stop absurd contracts and use the federal funds wisely
      Encourage Jobs with reasonable salaries
      Stop tax loops for opportunists
      Discourage Citizens Government Dependency
      7- Understand that for every P Rican that is unappreciative of their USA citizenship, there are millions of people waiting for it and risking what little they have to be part of the USA.

      How lucky we are to be Americans!
      God bless the future State of PR and God bless our great country, the USA!

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