Results of the 2020 U.S. Census Data and What it Means for City Officials

Data from a 2020 report from the U.S. Census Bureau is a clear illustration of the United States' growing diversity. As the U.S. becomes more diverse and more multiracial than it's ever been, city officials need to implement language services such as language access, interpreting, translation, and other services aimed at diversity for all the newly growing demographic groups in their area.

Let's take a look at the Census data in more detail.

Diversity in the United States

According to the 2020 report by the U.S. Census Bureau, people of color represented about 43% of the U.S. population in 2020. That's a 34% increase from 2010.

The total of Non-Hispanic Whites decreased to 57% in 2020. This is a 6% decrease since 2010. What's notable about this finding is the fact that it's the largest decrease of any race or ethnicity.

The percentage of people identifying as Hispanic or Latino or as multiracial saw the biggest growth. For example, the Some Other Race group increased 129%, which surpassed the African American population. Asian, American Indian and Alaska Native, and the Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander groups saw significant growth as well.

The 2020 Census implemented improvements to the question designs, which allowed participants to more thoroughly and accurately depict how they self-identify. For example, using a two-question format, the Census was able to get a more accurate picture of how people report that they are Hispanic. These changes are a further illustration that the U.S. is significantly more multiracial and diverse than it has been in the past. The fact that the Census is constantly evolving how they measure race and ethnicity is even more proof that the U.S. is growing in diversity.

The State of Languages in the U.S. 

According to an older Census report from 2015, U.S. residents speak more than 350 languages. Of participants who speak languages other than English, almost two-thirds speak Spanish. The population of U.S. residents speaking a language other than English has nearly tripled since 1980 when it stood at about 23 million. Today, that number is around 50 million people speaking different languages. Among the top languages are:

  • Spanish
  • Chinese
  • Tagalog
  • Vietnamese
  • Arabic
  • French
  • German
  • Russian
  • Korean

Increasing Racial Diversity and Implications for City Officials

The fact that the U.S. is seeing more diversity in ethnic groups and spoken languages shows that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs are more important than ever before.

City officials must actively work to ensure that diverse communities are well-represented in policy discussions. Also, local governments should prioritize requiring staff and elected officials to undergo diversity, equity, and inclusion training. This training would be beneficial in understanding race equity concepts across organizations.

Different Types of DEI Training

There are many types of diversity and equity training. Some programs are more focused on personal race equity issues, while others are more geared toward transforming institutions and structures.

Below is a brief overview of some training types. 

Interpersonal Relationships and Understanding

  • Implicit/unconscious bias training: Seeks to raise awareness of attitudes and stereotypes that affect understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. Unconscious bias training aims to help individuals manage and minimize their own biases. As a result, a more respectful, safe, and inclusive environment is created.
  • Microaggresions training: Designed to help reduce microaggressions inflicted upon various ethnic groups based on implicit biases. This can benefit public safety officials, including law enforcement, fire, EMS, health, social work, and education.
  • Cultural competency training: Focus on skills and knowledge that value diversity as well as understand/respond to cultural differences. Cultural competency training also aims to increase awareness of various cultural norms of different races and ethnic groups.

Changing Institutional Race Equities

  • Building organizational capacity training: Aims to increase understanding of institutional and structural racism as well as the use of racial equity tools. The goal is to build strategies that help promote racial equity in local institutions and organizations.
  • Undoing institutional and structural racism training: Helps participants understand racism, how it functions, the reasons for its persistence, and how to undo its effects. The aim is to develop organizational strategies to address racial disparities.

Increasing Language Access

Despite the fact that many U.S. residents who speak a language other than English may speak English quite well, there are many who don't. Approximately 8% of the U.S. population are considered Limited English Proficient (LEP), which is about 25% of the total population. This population may have increased difficulty receiving the same opportunities as those who are English proficient. Some of these opportunities include education, employment, voting, and homeownership.

Organizations like the Census Bureau are recognizing that many people aren't proficient in English, and feel more comfortable speaking their native language. In response, the organization offers language access by giving households the option to respond online or by phone in English and 12 other languages. The Census has also begun to send tailored invitations to U.S. residents based on the language they speak. For example, it plans to send bilingual invitations to U.S. households that speak both English and Spanish.

The Census has also focused on educating and assisting respondents with LEP by expanding language support, language access, and translation. For example, online questionnaires will include language guides, glossaries, and identification cards that will be available in 59 non-English languages.

In order to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse population, local officials must provide language support, language access, and translation services to those who need them. These services can help LEP residents navigate various essential institutions, including being a part of the workforce, getting access to adequate healthcare services, obtaining housing, receiving a quality education, and exercising their right to vote.

Local governments and communities must enforce laws, regulations, and policies against discrimination based on race and ethnicity. Providing translation services ensures that all residents receive equal opportunity. These services should be accessible to everyone.

Striving to provide language access and interpreting services that help organizations and institutions deal with more diverse populations should be a top priority for city officials. Ensuring that everyone has equal rights and opportunities by proving various solutions such as diversity and equity training and language access is essential. Language translation and language interpretation services offer a wide range of benefits, including helping non-English speakers achieve self-sufficiency.

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