Census reflects region's changing demographics

White population declining across all counties

Data from the 2020 Census is out, and there are some large changes to the demographics of the central Puget Sound region.

Non-Hispanic whites still make up the largest racial/ethnic group, but by a smaller margin than in the last census count. In 2010, whites comprised 69% of the central Puget Sound region’s population; they now make up 59% of the population.

Whites were the only racial group that did not increase during the last decade. All others grew—and sometimes by a large margin. The largest increases were by people who identify as being of two or more racial groups (139%) and people who marked themselves as belonging to an “other” racial group on the census form (62%).

People of Asian descent increased by 56% and Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders grew by 54%.

The region’s Hispanic/Latinx population swelled by 46%. The Census Bureau separates Hispanic or Latinx ancestry from race.

Demographers are investigating whether growth reported by some racial groups was due to changes in the Census survey, an actual increase in those groups, or differences in how people filled out their census forms, especially people who identify as Hispanic or multiracial.

At the county level, the smaller proportion of whites is particularly noticeable. In Kitsap, the white population dropped from nearly 80% of the population to 72%. In Snohomish County, the change was even greater, from 74% to 64%. Non-white racial and ethnic groups in all counties grew, except for American Indians and Alaska Natives. This group dropped in every county, from a population of 34,049 regionwide to 32,936.

Fifteen cities in the region now have 50% or more people of color. All but six reached this threshold for the first time with the 2020 Census. Most of the cities are in King or Pierce counties. Lynnwood is the only city in the northern part of the region with a population that’s half or more people of color.

The once-a-decade census helps communities plan how they’ll grow, determines political representation, and impacts funding for local jurisdictions.

As the region becomes increasingly diverse, the systemic racism and disparate outcomes experienced by people of color are challenges that impact all central Puget Sound communities. With the update of PSRC’s VISION 2050, data on the changing demographic makeup of communities will be important in addressing social equity impacts and benefits now and in the future as the region grows.