Portland is often characterized as a “white” city, and it’s true. The largest segment of the city’s population is white. But since 1980, the demographic makeup of the city has increasingly become more diverse. In 1980, the white population was more than 80 percent of the city’s total population; by 2010 it was a little over 70 percent of the population.
Over the last 30 years, Portland’s population has grown from roughly 370,000 to 584,000. And with that growth has come diversity, which is not too different from the national trend.
The most notable increases have occurred among Hispanics and Asians. In 1980 they each made up less than 3 percent of the population. In 2010, Hispanics were more than 10 percent of the population — an eight-fold increase overall — and Asians 7 percent, nearly a four-fold increase.
Increases in the Black population over the last 30 years have been much less dramatic. While they have grown in absolute numbers, the increase has been comparably small; just under 8,000 people in 30 years. Blacks in 2010 make up 6 percent of the population, down from 7.1 percent in 1980.
The Native American and Alaskan Native population and Other race groups have also contributed to Portland’s growing diversity. Changes in reporting (“some other race” was introduced in 2000) contributed to the large increase between 1990 and 2000. Combined, the NA-AN and Other race groups account for about 5 percent of the city’s population in 2010. But the proportions may be actually slightly higher. According to members of the Native American communities, Native Americans may be undercounted in the Census. According to “The Native American Community” profile that is part of the Communities of Color reports, a community-verified population count — explorations into the actual numbers — suggests the community may be undercounted by nearly 50 percent in Multnomah County.
In absolute numbers, the white population has had the largest amount of growth, an increase of over 100,000. But their proportion of total population has decreased as all other groups have grown proportionally.
So Portland is arguably becoming a more diverse city. While still not as diverse as other places in the country, the city is on a trajectory to become much more culturally, racially and ethnically diverse. It just may take some time —perhaps a generation or two.