June 22, 2001

Political and Business Notes:

Politics. Antonio Villaraigosa, seeking to become the first Hispanic mayor of Los Angeles in modern times, lost to James Hahn in a June 2001 election by 54-46 percent. Whites cast 52 percent of the mayoral votes; Latinos, 22 percent; Blacks, 17 percent; and Asians, six percent. Villarai-gosa received 82 percent of the Latino vote, and Hahn received 80 percent of African-American vote.

Many political scientists have noted the growing gap between ethnic population shares and ethnic voter shares, and between ethnic population shares and state expenditures for services that are used disproportionately of one ethni-city. Non-Hispanic whites are 49 percent of California residents, but in the November 2000 election, they cast 73 percent of the votes; 36 percent of children enrolled in public schools are non-Hispanic whites. About half of the state's general fund is spent on education.

The political representation of California's 2.5 million Blacks is declining as Latinos and Asians gain population and voters, and increasingly elect officials who are Latinos and Asians. Blacks are about six percent of California residents, compared to 33 percent for Latinos and 12 percent for Asians. In 1982, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley might have become the nation's first elected African-American governor, but he lost by 90,000 votes out of eight million to Attorney General George Deukmejian.

In 1984, before the massive demographic changes of the late 1980s and 1990s, there were 233 Black elected officials in California, compared to 460 Latinos and 106 Asians. By 1998, there were 233 Black elected officials, 789 Latinos and 503 Asians. Term limits forced many Blacks out of office, and they were often replaced by Latinos and Asians.


Polls, Hispanics, Asians

Polls. An April 2001 poll by the Pew Research Center found that about two-thirds of Americans are aware that blacks, Latinos and people of Asian descent have made California the first "minority-majority" state, and that 42 percent think the state's ethnic and racial diversity is a "good thing," while 28 percent say they think it is a "bad thing." About 58 percent of those polled said they were aware that the US has about the same number of Latinos and Blacks.

The 2001 poll found that Americans have a positive view of immigration and immigrants. In 1994, 63 percent of those polled agreed that immigrants are "an economic drain on the country;" by 2000, only 38 percent agreed. When asked if today's immigrants adapt well to US life, 43 percent agreed that immigrants adapt better to American life than prior generations of immigrants, while 21 percent say they do not adapt well.

Census. The median age of US residents was 35.3 in 2000, the highest it has ever been; in 1990, the median age was 32.9. By state, the lowest median age was Utah's, 27; the highest, 39, in West Virginia.

In California, where the median age is 33, the lowest median ages are in Central Valley counties such as Merced, where the median age is 29. A Mexican immigrant in Fresno with four children said: "Rent is not that high and there is always work here, in the field or the packing companies. Here there are many programs that help the immigrants."

Hispanics. The number of Hispanics rose by 13 million between 1990 and 2000, led by a gain of seven million Mexican-Americans. There were 35.3 million self-designated Hispanics in the US in April 2000, when the population was 281.4 million, including 20.6 million Mexican-Americans (about eight million Hispanics born in Mexico and 13 million with ancestors born in Mexi-co), 3.4 million Americans of Puerto Rican ancestry and 1.2 million of Cuban ancestry. A surprise was that six million Hispanics listed their origin as "other," which might explain why the number of Mexican-Americans was about one million less than the Census anticipated.

Half of the nation's Hispanic population lives in California and Texas; 43 of the 50 US counties in which Hispanics are a majority of residents are in Texas or New Mexico.

In the 122 of the 435 US Congressional districts in which Hispanics exceed their national share of the population (12.5 percent of US residents are Hispanic), 40 percent are represented by Republicans and 60 percent by Democrats. Hispanics are 42 percent of New Mexican residents and 32 percent of both California and Texas residents. About 35 percent of Hispanics were under 18, compared to 26 percent of the United States population. About 70 percent of US Hispanics are Roman Catholic, and 22 percent are Protestant; most Protestant Hispanics are evangelical Christians.

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