Gwinnett is now a minority majority county

By the middle of this century, maybe as early as 2041, the U.S. population will no longer be a white majority; it will be a minority majority -- blacks, Hispanics, Asians -- and when that  happens Gwinnett County will be standing at the finish line, waiting.

The U.S. Bureau of the Census said on Thursday that Gwinnett County is now minority majority, an oxymoron that translates into 50.8 percent of the population as non-white and 49.2 percent as white.

The numbers, based on 2009 census estimates, were a long time coming, said demographers who have been watching as the county, with a population of more than 800,000, has become one of the most diverse in the nation.

In 2000, Gwinnett’s population was 67.3 percent white and 32.7 percent minority. Since then, the black and Hispanic populations of the county have more than doubled.

That’s no shock to Lisa Neidert, a senior research associate the University of Michigan’s Population Studies Center. She said Gwinnett, with its booming population, was bound to join the more than 300 counties in the U.S. that are now minority majority.

“If you’re in an area of the county that’s growing you’re going to be a minority majority,” said Neidert. “Gwinnett is just reflecting what’s happening nationwide.”

The nation’s minority population is steadily rising and now makes up 35 percent of the U.S., according to census estimates.

Minorities grew by more than 2 percent from 2008 to 2009, according to the census, bringing the collective minorities population in the nation to an estimated 107.2 million. Those numbers were boosted by a surge in Hispanic births and more people who described themselves as multiracial, according to the census.

During the same period, the white population in the nation remained flat, making up roughly 199.9 million, or 65 percent, of the country, according to census estimates. A detailed census count for 2010 is still being compiled.

Jerry Gonzales, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, said on Thursday he was not surprised that Gwinnett’s Hispanic population has more than doubled since 2009, from 64,137 to 145,268, but he was glad to see the estimate that makes it official.

“The growth has been phenomenal and we have long recognized that this is very much a Latino county,” Gonzales said.

When the census count is official and the county’s election districts are reconfigured, Gonzales said the county's Latino population will be better represented.

“Right now we only have two Latinos representing us in Gwinnett,” he said. “I think that will change.”

In the latest census figures available, Gwinnett’s Asian population rose from 42,360 in 2000 to 72,209 by 2008.

Currently four states -- Hawaii, New Mexico, California and Texas --  as well as the District of Columbia have minority populations that exceed 50 percent.

About 311 of the 3,143 counties, or one in 10,  have minority populations of 50 percent or greater. That’s up from more than 250 counties in 2000.

Phil Hoskins, director of Community Services in Gwinnett County Community Services director, said indicators of the county’s shifting demographics sometimes show up in surprising places.

He said the county, for instance, makes more gathering space at parks for different minority groups to meet, when a few years ago it might have had a general ball field in operation.