LA as Babel–recent Census data release

I’ve had this Census data sitting in my “to blog” file for weeks now. I just love Census data (but then, I’ve been known to browse the dictionary from time to time for fun, so there you have it–I’m a data geek). A few weeks ago the Census released their annual “American Community Survey,” data which covers key economic, social, and housing numbers for US cities. There are a bunch of interesting figures in this data set. Some are, if depressing, not surprising. For instance, 19% of Angelenos live below the poverty line (compared to 13% of people nationwide). Our high school dropout percentage is also significantly higher than the national number (27% of Angelenos versus 16% of US-dwellers).

Of course, there were numbers that took me by surprise. For one thing, I didn’t realize that LA is still a city comprised entirely of “minorities.” That is, no ethnic/racial group has more than 50% of the population according to the Census (I had thought the Latino population had tipped the scales but apparently not. (It’s hard to parse out exactly what the numbers are because the Census has this strange way of reporting biracial or multiracial responses. For those who are as geeky as me, the data are at the end of the post.)

But the coolest stat to me was that 60% of Angelenos speak a language other than English at home (20% is the national figure). That was the number that really motivated me to print out the data set and carry it with me to remind me to blog about it. Understand, I lived in the upper midwest for eleven years where diversity means you can have your Friday fish fried or boiled. One of the greatest things about LA, in my mind, is how polyglot and polycultural we are. And guess what I found out? LA is home to the National Heritage Language Resource Center. (A “heritage language” is one spoken in the home that is not the “dominant” language.) And how did I come to find that out? Well, among my Rosh Hashanah dinner companions was the director of the center, who also happens to be my boyfriend’s aunt. Go figure. Plate of shrimp.

Census says of the LA population:
For people reporting one race alone, 48 percent was White; 10 percent was Black or African American; 1 percent was American Indian and Alaska Native; 11 percent was Asian; less than 0.5 percent was Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, and 30 percent was Some other race. Three percent reported Two or more races. Forty-nine percent of the people in Los Angeles city, CA was Hispanic. Twenty-nine percent of the people in Los Angeles city, CA was White non-Hispanic. People of Hispanic origin may be of any race.

And the national population:
For people reporting one race alone, 75 percent was White; 13 percent was Black or African American; 1 percent was American Indian and Alaska Native; 4 percent was Asian; less than 0.5 percent was Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, and 6 percent was Some other race. Two percent reported Two or more races. Fifteen percent of the people in United States was Hispanic. Sixty-six percent of the people in United States was White non-Hispanic. People of Hispanic origin may be of any race.

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