New Haven has no racial majority for the first time ever, according to figures from the 2000 census.
The city’s minorities now make up 64.4 percent of the population, while the number of whites have fallen by 16,540 to 43 percent since the 1990 census.
The number of blacks dropped slightly as well, but the number of Hispanics and Asians rose by 53 and 56 percent, to 26,443 and 4,898 respectively, census data show.
Complicating the census this year was the unprecedented decision to count multiracial Americans, who make up two percent of the national population and almost four percent of the New Haven population. With people selecting multiple ethnicities, each person was counted for all of the ethnicities he or she marked, creating an overlap.
“The best thing about the 2000 census is that they have begun to appropriately reflect the complexity of the reality,” political science professor Douglas Rae said. “Black meaning black altogether and white meaning white altogether are kind of silly ideas.”
Despite a five percent population drop, New Haven is now the second most populous city in Connecticut, eclipsing Hartford, whose population plummeted by 13 percent. The most populous city is still Bridgeport.
Hartford’s drop is proof that Connecticut’s industrial cities are losing residents, Rae said.
The exodus from industrial cities has been the national trend for the past several decades.
“Now there is no economic advantage to crowding industrial plants — in central cities,” Rae said.
The city’s numbers reflect a statewide trend away from cities and toward nearby suburbs. The population of neighboring suburban areas of New Haven have shot up. For instance, Woodbridge increased by 13.4 percent. And Fairfield County, mainly suburban and bordering New York, is now the most populous county in the state.
This movement towards the suburbs can partially account for the massive drop in the number of whites in the city.
“For some whites, what makes some neighborhoods more desirable are other whites,” sociology professor Christopher Rhomberg said. “Whites tend to have higher income levels — speaking broadly here. White households then have greater choice in the real estate market.”
These recently released numbers also have implications on education in New Haven.
“It makes the racial integration of our schools essentially impossible,” Rae said.
Overall, Connecticut has 3,409,535 residents, up 3.6 percent, census data show. While the increase accounts for the drop in population earlier in the decade, the growth was not large enough to keep the state from losing one of its six congressional districts.
“As we have known for some time, though Connecticut’s population increased, we will have a smaller congressional delegation in the future,” Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro said.
New Haven’s numbers point to a larger portion of the population being non-white than on the national scale, but the city exemplifies what some see as the America to come.
“New Haven seems to be foreshadowing the national future when [whites]–are not going to be in the majority,” Rae said.