King County is the whitest of the nation’s 20 most-populous counties. But the county’s fastest population growth is happening among Asian and mixed-race people. The Times’ FYI Guy, Gene Balk, digs into the new Census numbers.

Share story

Among the 20 most-populous U.S. counties, King County is the whitest — by a ways. According to new data released by the Census Bureau, King is 62.4 percent non-Hispanic white. Nearly all the 19 other counties are “majority minority.” Miami-Dade County, Fla. — the least white — is only 14.8 percent white.

This may come as a surprise, considering that for a 20-year stretch King County’s white population didn’t grow at all. From 1990 to 2010, non-Hispanic whites flatlined at about 1.26 million people. The county’s population growth, which was substantial in that period, came entirely from people of color.

Though still a majority numerically, white people are the slowest growing group in King County. Source: U.S. Census Bureau (Garland Potts / The Seattle Times)
Though still a majority numerically, white people are the slowest growing group in King County. Source: U.S. Census Bureau (Garland Potts / The Seattle Times)

But that trend appears to be officially over.

Census data released last week also shows that from 2010 to 2014, King County’s white population grew along with everyone else, with a net gain of about 41,000 people — bringing the number of whites in the county to nearly 1.3 million, the largest it’s ever been.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

I spoke with King County demographer Chandler Felt, who told me, “I think it’s really interesting that there’s population growth across the board since 2010, including non-Hispanic white men and women — it’s indicative of our strong job market.”

Given that job market, tech-heavy as it is, it’s no surprise the growth in our white population skews to men, who number 5,800 more than women since 2010.

You might expect to see a similar imbalance in the growth of the Asian population, easily the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group in the county. But, oddly, it’s not the case. The Asian population increased by more than 50,000 people since 2010, with slightly more women than men.

I asked Felt about the greater increase in the county’s population of Asian women: “The stereotype would say it’s men coming from India and China to work in high-tech. I don’t know how to explain that,” he said.

One speculation: higher ed. We have a lot of students from Asia in King County colleges, and that population tends to be disproportionately female — maybe that’s enough to compensate for primarily male hiring in tech?

Even though the white population is increasing again, the county is still diversifying rapidly because all the other groups are growing at a much faster pace. In 2014, non-Hispanic whites made up 62.4 percent of the county population, a drop of 2.5 percentage points from 2010.

We’re still a long way off from becoming a “majority minority” county, though. At the current rate of change, that won’t happen until 2035.

The fastest-growing group after Asians is people of more than one race. Nearly 89,000 multiracial people live in King County, making up 4.3 percent of the population.