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White Americans

"White America" redirects here. For the song by Eminem, see White America (song).
White American
Total population
72.4% (includes Hispanics who identified as white) of the total U.S. population in 2010
 • Non-Hispanic White
63.7% of the total U.S. population in 2010
 • White Hispanic or Latino Americans
8.7% of the United States population 2010
Regions with significant populations
All areas of the United States
Major: American English. Others: Spanish · Polish · German · Italian · Dutch · French · Armenian · Swedish · Pashto · Persian · Portuguese · Russian · Bosnian · Romanian · Ukrainian · Croatian · Serbian · Albanian · Czech · Norwegian · Danish · Finnish · Greek · Kabyle · Macedonian · Hungarian · Hebrew · Arabic · Slovak · Slovene · Yiddish · Ladino · other languages
Predominantly Protestantism; Roman Catholic is the largest single denomination; Significantly: Orthodoxy, agnosticism, atheism, Mormonism, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism
Related ethnic groups
Europeans, White Latin Americans, White Canadians, White Australians, European diasporas from other parts of the world

White Americans are people of the United States who are considered or consider themselves White. The United States Census Bureau defines White people as those "having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. It includes people who indicated their race(s) as “White” or reported entries such as Irish, German, Italian, Lebanese, Arab, Moroccan, or Caucasian."[4] Like all official U.S. racial categories, "White" has a "Not Hispanic or Latino" and a "Hispanic or Latino" component,[5] the latter consisting mostly of White Mexican Americans and white Cuban Americans. The term "Caucasian" is often used interchangeably with "White", although the terms are technically not synonymous.[6][7]

The ten largest ancestries of American Whites are: German Americans (16.5%), Irish Americans (11.9%), English Americans (9.0%), Italian Americans (5.8%), French Americans (4%), Polish Americans (3%), Scottish Americans (1.9%), Dutch Americans (1.6%), Norwegian Americans (1.5%), and Swedish Americans (1.4%).[8]

Whites (includes Hispanics who identified as white) constitute the majority with a total of 223,553,265 or 72.4% of the population in the 2010 United States Census

Non-Hispanic whites make up 196,817,552 and 63.7% of the United States population.

Historical and present definitions

Definitions of who is "white" have changed throughout the history of the United States. At different times people of German, Italian, Irish, and Russian heritage have been considered non-White, but are now generally considered White. Currently the question of whether people of Hispanic, North African, and Middle Eastern descent should be considered white in the United States is a topic of some discussion.

Current U.S. Census definition

The term "White American" can encompass many different ethnic groups. Although the United States Census purports to reflect a social definition of race, the social dimensions of race are more complex than Census criteria. The 2000 U.S. census states that racial categories "generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country. They do not conform to any biological, anthropological or genetic criteria."[9]

The Census question on race lists the categories White or European American, Black or African American, American Indian and Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, Asian, plus "Some other race", with the respondent having the ability to mark more than one racial and\or ethnic category. The Census Bureau defines White people as follows:

“White” refers to a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. It includes people who indicated their race(s) as “White” or reported entries such as Irish, German, Italian, Lebanese, Arab, Moroccan, or Caucasian.[4]

In U.S. census documents, the designation white overlaps, as do all other official racial categories, with the term Hispanic or Latino, which was introduced in the 1980 census as a category of ethnicity, separate and independent of race.[10][11] Hispanic and Latino Americans as a whole make up a racially diverse group and as a whole are the largest minority in the country.[12][13]

In cases where individuals do not self-identify, the U.S. census parameters for race give each national origin a racial value.

Additionally, people who reported Muslim (or a sect of Islam such as Shi'ite or Sunni), Jewish, Zoroastrian, or Caucasian as their "race" in the "Some other race" section, without noting a country of origin, are automatically tallied as white.[14] The US Census considers the write-in response of "Caucasian" or "Aryan" to be a synonym for white in their ancestry code listing.[15]

Social definition

President Abraham Lincoln was descended from Samuel Lincoln, and was of English and Welsh ancestry.
Actress Raquel Welch of Spanish (via Bolivia) and English ancestry back to the Mayflower.[16]

In the United States essentially anyone of European descent is considered white. Although both Jewish American and Arab-Americans are included in the white category in the census and some Hispanics might identify as white, some might not consider themselves white, and might not be considered white by others.[17][18][19]

The cultural boundaries separating white Americans from other racial or ethnic categories have changed significantly over the course of American history. Even among Europeans those not considered white at some time in American history include Southern Europeans (Spaniards, Greeks, Italians, etc), Irish people, and Central and Eastern Europeans (Germans, Poles, Russians) but mostly notably Polish people due to the Partitions of Poland.[20][21]

Early on in the United States, white generally referred to those of British ancestry or northern (Nordic) and northwestern (British and French) European descent.[22]

David R. Roediger argues that the construction of the white race in the United States was an effort to mentally distance slave owners from slaves.[23] The process of officially being defined as white by law often came about in court disputes over pursuit of citizenship.[24]

Critical race theory definition

Critical race theory takes, as one of its founding influences, the nonfiction essays of James Baldwin, who argued that Whiteness was a fictional category, a construct without reference to any culture at all except for the purposes of domination and genocide. Scholars such as David Roediger, Paul Gilroy, and others have based some of their work on this notion.

As whites, especially White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, or WASPs, are the dominant racial and cultural group, according to sociologist Steven Seidman, writing from a critical theory perspective, "White culture constitutes the general cultural mainstream, causing non-White culture to be seen as deviant, in either a positive or negative manner. Moreover, Whites tend to be disproportionately represented in powerful positions, controlling almost all political, economic, and cultural institutions."

Yet, according to Seidman, Whites are most commonly unaware of their "privilege" and the manner in which their culture has always been dominant in the US, as they do not identify as members of a specific racial group but rather incorrectly perceive their views and culture as "raceless", when in fact it is ethno-national (ethnic/cultural) specific, with a racial base component.[25]

Demographic information

White Americans 1790–2010[26][27]
Year Population  % of the U.S Year Population  % of the U.S
1790 3,172,006 80.7 1910 81,731,957 88.9
1800 4,306,446 81.1 1920 94,820,915 89.7
1810 5,862,073 81.0 1930 110,286,740 89.8 (highest)
1820 7,866,797 81.6 1940 118,214,870 89.8 (highest)
1830 10,532,060 81.9 1950 134,942,028 89.5
1840 14,189,705 83.2 1960 158,831,732 88.6
1850 19,553,068 84.3 1970 177,748,975 87.5
1860 26,922,537 85.6 1980 188,371,622 83.1
1870 33,589,377 87.1 1990 199,686,070 80.3
1880 43,402,970 86.5 2000 211,460,626 75.1[28]
1890 55,101,258 87.5 2010 223,553,265 72.4[29] (lowest)
1900 66,809,196 87.9

Whites (non-Hispanic and Hispanic) made up 79.8% or 75% of the American population in 2008.[12][13][30][31] This latter number is sometimes recorded as 77.1% when it includes about 2% of the population who are identified as white in combination with one or more other races. The largest ethnic groups (by ancestry) among white Americans were Germans, followed by the Irish and the English.[32] It is likely that many Americans who are descended of English, Scotch-Irish, or Scottish peoples, or perhaps even more commonly a combination of these and of these and other ethnic groups, simply identify as "American" in the census, and that Americans of English descent are far greater in number than those of German descent. For a better idea on why Americans of English ancestry are likely far undercounted, see English American. In the 1980 census 49,598,035 Americans cited that they were of English ancestry, making them 26% of the country and the largest group at the time, and in fact larger than the population of England itself.[33] Slightly more than half of these people would cite that they were of "American" ancestry on subsequent censuses and virtually everywhere that "American" ancestry predominates on the 2000 census corresponds to places where "English" predominated on the 1980 census.[34][35]

White Americans are projected to remain the majority, though with their percentage decreasing to 72% of the total population by 2050. However, the projections are that the non-Hispanic White population will become less than 50% of the population by 2042, in part because Non-Hispanic Whites have the third lowest fertility rate of any major racial group in the United States and largely due to mass-immigration and because of large scale intermarriage with Hispanic whites which ensures that children both of inter-ethnic marriages are also Hispanic whites.

While over ten million white people can trace part of their ancestry back to the Pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower in 1620 (this common statistic overlooks the Jamestown, Virginia foundations of America and roots of even earlier colonist-descended Americans, such as Spanish Americans in St. Augustine, Florida), over 35 million whites have at least one ancestor who passed through the Ellis Island immigration station, which processed arriving immigrants from 1892 until 1954. See also: European Americans.

Geographic distribution

According to the Census definition, white Americans are the majority racial group in almost all of the United States. They are not the majority in Hawaii, many American Indian reservations, parts of the South known as the Black Belt, and in many urban areas throughout the country.

Overall the highest concentration of those referred to as "White alone" by the Census Bureau was found in the Midwest, New England, the Rocky Mountain states, Kentucky, and West Virginia. The lowest concentration of whites was found in southern and mid-Atlantic states.[5][36][37]

Although all large geographical areas are dominated by white Americans, much larger differences can be seen between specific parts of large cities.

States with the highest percentages of White Americans, as of 2007:[38]

States with the highest percentages of non-Hispanic whites, as of 2007:[39]

Income and educational attainment

White Americans have the second highest median household income and personal income levels in the nation, by cultural background. The median income per household member was also the highest, since White Americans had the smallest households of any racial demographic in the nation. In 2006, the median individual income of a White American age 25 or older was $33,030, with those who were full-time employed, and of age 25 to 64, earning $34,432. Since 42% of all households had two income earners, the median household income was considerably higher than the median personal income, which was $48,554 in 2005. Jewish Americans rank first in household income, personal income, and educational attainment among white Americans.[40] In 2005, white households had a median household income of $48,977, which is 10.3% above the national median of $44,389. Among Cuban Americans, with 86% classifying as White, those persons born in the US have a higher median income and educational attainment level than most other whites.[41]

The poverty rates for White Americans are the second-lowest of any racial group, with 10.8% of white individuals living below the poverty line, 3% lower than the national average.[42] However, due to Whites' majority status, 48% of Americans living in poverty are white.[43]

Whites' educational attainment is the second-highest in the country, after Asian Americans'. Overall, nearly one-third of White Americans had a Bachelor's degree, with the educational attainment for whites being higher for those born outside the United States: 37.6% of foreign born, and 29.7% of native born Whites had a college degree. Both figures are above the national average of 27.2%.[44]

Gender income inequality was the greatest among whites, with White men outearning white women by 48%. Census Bureau data for 2005 reveals that the median income of white females was lower than that of males of all races. In 2005, the median income for White females was only slightly higher than that of African American females.[45]

Population by state or territory

White Population by state or territory (2000–2010)[46]
State/Territory Pop 2000 % pop 2000 Pop 2010 % pop 2010 % growth
Alabama Alabama 3,162,808 71.1% 3,275,394 68.5% +3.56%
Alaska Alaska 434,534 69.3% 473,576 66.7% +8.98%
Arizona Arizona 3,873,611 75.5% 4,667,121 73.0% +20.48%
Arkansas Arkansas 2,138,598 80.0% 2,245,229 77.0% +4.99%
California California 20,170,059 79.7% 21,453,934 74.0% +6.36%
Colorado Colorado 3,560,005 82.8% 4,089,202 81.3% +14.86%
Connecticut Connecticut 2,780,355 81.6% 2,772,410 77.6% -0.28%
Delaware Delaware 584,773 74.6% 618,617 68.9% +5.79%
Washington, D.C. District of Columbia 176,101 30.8% 231,471 38.5% +31.44%
Florida Florida 12,465,029 78.0% 14,109,162 75.0% +13.19%
Georgia (U.S. state) Georgia 5,327,281 65.1% 5,787,440 59.7% +8.64%
Hawaii Hawaii 294,102 24.3% 336,599 24.7% +14.45%
Idaho Idaho 1,177,304 91.0% 1,396,487 89.1% +18.62%
Illinois Illinois 9,125,471 73.5% 9,177,877 71.5% +0.57%
Indiana Indiana 5,320,022 87.5% 5,467,906 84.3% +2.78%
Iowa Iowa 2,748,640 93.9% 2,781,561 91.3% +1.20%
Kansas Kansas 2,313,944 86.1% 2,391,044 83.8% +3.33%
Kentucky Kentucky 3,640,889 90.1% 3,809,537 87.8% +4.63%
Louisiana Louisiana 2,856,161 63.9% 2,836,192 62.6% -0.70%
Maine Maine 1,236,014 96.9% 1,264,971 95.2% +2.34%
Maryland Maryland 3,391,308 64.0% 3,359,284 58.2% -0.94%
Massachusetts Massachusetts 5,367,286 84.5% 5,265,236 80.4% -1.90%
Michigan Michigan 7,966,053 80.2% 7,803,120 78.9% -2.04%
Minnesota Minnesota 4,400,282 89.4% 4,524,062 85.3% +2.81%
Mississippi Mississippi 1,746,099 61.4% 1,754,684 59.1% +0.49%
Missouri Missouri 4,748,083 84.9% 4,958,770 82.8% +4.44%
Montana Montana 817,229 90.6% 884,961 89.4% +8.29%
Nebraska Nebraska 1,533,261 89.6% 1,572,838 86.1% +2.58%
Nevada Nevada 1,501,886 75.2% 1,786,688 66.2% +18.96%
New Hampshire New Hampshire 1,186,851 96.0% 1,236,050 92.3% +4.14%
New Jersey New Jersey 6,104,705 72.6% 6,029,248 68.6% -1.23%
New Mexico New Mexico 1,214,253 66.8% 1,407,876 68.4% +15.95%
New York New York 12,893,689 67.9% 12,740,974 65.7% -1.18%
North Carolina North Carolina 5,804,656 72.1% 6,528,950 68.5% +12.48%
North Dakota North Dakota 593,181 92.4% 605,449 90.0% +2.07%
Ohio Ohio 9,645,453 85.0% 9,539,437 82.7% -1.10%
Oklahoma Oklahoma 2,628,434 76.2% 2,706,845 72.2% +2.98%
Oregon Oregon 2,961,623 86.6% 3,204,614 83.6% +8.20%
Pennsylvania Pennsylvania 10,484,203 85.4% 10,406,288 81.9% -0.74%
Rhode Island Rhode Island 891,191 85.0% 856,869 81.4% -3.85%
South Carolina South Carolina 2,695,560 67.2% 3,060,000 66.2% +13.52%
South Dakota South Dakota 669,404 88.7% 699,392 85.9% +4.48%
Tennessee Tennessee 4,563,310 80.2% 4,921,948 77.6% +7.86%
Texas Texas 14,799,505 71.0% 17,701,552 70.4% +19.61%
Utah Utah 1,992,975 89.2% 2,379,560 86.1% +19.40%
Vermont Vermont 589,208 96.8% 596,292 95.3% +1.20%
Virginia Virginia 5,120,110 72.3% 5,486,852 68.6% +7.16%
Washington (state) Washington 4,821,823 81.8% 5,196,362 77.3% +7.77%
West Virginia West Virginia 1,718,777 95.0% 1,739,988 93.9% +1.23%
Wisconsin Wisconsin 4,769,857 88.9% 4,902,067 86.2% +2.77%
Wyoming Wyoming 454,670 92.1% 511,279 90.7% +12.45%
American Samoa American Samoa 682 1.2%
Guam Guam 10,666 6.9%
Northern Mariana Islands Northern Mariana Islands 1,274 1.8%
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico 3,064,862 80.5% 2,825,100 75.8% -7.17%
United States Virgin Islands U.S. Virgin Islands 12,275 11.3% 17,131 16.1% +39.56%
United States United States of America 211,460,626 75.1% 223,553,265 72.4% +5.72%


Three members of the Kennedy political dynasty, John, Robert, and Edward. All eight of their great-grandparents immigrated from Ireland.

From their earliest presence in North America, White Americans have contributed literature, art, agricultural skills, foods, science and technology, clothing styles, music, and language to American culture.

Four regional cultures

In his 1989 book Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (ISBN 0-19-506905-6), David Hackett Fischer explores the details of the folkways of four groups of settlers from the British Isles that came to the American colonies during the 17th and 18th centuries from distinct regions of Britain and Ireland. His thesis is that the culture of each group persisted (albeit in modified form), providing the basis for the modern United States.[page needed]

According to Fischer, the foundation of America's four regional cultures was formed from four mass migrations from four regions of the British Isles by four distinct ethno-cultural groups. New England's formative period occurred between 1629 and 1640 when Puritans, mostly from East Anglia, settled there, thus forming the basis for the New England regional culture. The next mass migration was of southern English Cavaliers and their Irish and Scottish servants to the Chesapeake Bay region between 1640 and 1675. This spawned the creation of the American Southern culture.[page needed]

Then, between 1675 and 1725, thousands of Irish, Cornish, English and Welsh Quakers plus many Germans sympathetic to Quaker ideas, led by William Penn, settled the Delaware Valley. This resulted in the formation of the General American culture, although, according to Fischer, this is really a "regional culture", even if it does today encompass most of the U.S. from the mid-Atlantic states to the Pacific Coast. Finally, a huge number of settlers from the borderlands between England and Scotland, and from northern Ireland, migrated to Appalachia between 1717 and 1775. This resulted in the formation of the Upland South regional culture, which has since expanded to the west to West Texas and parts of the U.S. Southwest.[page needed]

In his book, Fischer brings up several points. He states that the U.S. is not a country with one "general" culture and several "regional" culture, as is commonly thought. Rather, there are only four regional cultures as described above, and understanding this helps one to more clearly understand American history as well as contemporary American life. Fischer asserts that it is not only important to understand where different groups came from, but when. All population groups have, at different times, their own unique set of beliefs, fears, hopes and prejudices. When different groups came to America and brought certain beliefs and values with them, these ideas became, according to Fischer, more or less frozen in time, even if they eventually changed in their original place of origin.[page needed]

See also


External links

  • White Population 2000 from the US Census
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