Summary: The racial generation gap is defined as the difference in the percentage people of color between the youth (under age 18) and senior (ages 65 or older) populations. Data for 2020 represents a 2016-2020 average.
Data Source(s): U.S. Census Bureau, 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2010 Decennial Census Summary Files, 2020 American Community Survey 5-Year Summary File.
Universe: All people under age 18, and all people ages 65 and older.
Methods: Care was taken to generate consistent estimates of people by race/ethnicity and age groups (under 18, 18 to 64, and over 64) for the years 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2010, at both the city and county levels. The county-level estimates were then aggregated to generate estimates at the regional, state, and US levels.
For 2000 and 2010, data on the number of people by race/ethnicity and age is readily available in SF1 of the Census in categories that are consistent with the six broad racial/ethnic groups (identified by the census) detailed in the Atlas; however, this is not entirely the case for 1980 and 1990. Estimates for these years had to be made to ensure consistency over time, utilizing two different Census summary files from each year. The estimates were necessary because while all data reported in the Atlas (unless otherwise noted) treat “Hispanic or Latino” as one of six broad mutually exclusive racial/ethnic groups (with all other groups excluding people of Hispanic or Latino origin), the U.S. Census Bureau considers “Hispanic or Latino” an ethnicity and not a race, and often reports data only for groups defined by single race alone (e.g., “White alone,” “Black alone”) which includes people of Hispanic or Latino origin.
For 1980, after combining data from STF1 and STF2, information on total population by race/ethnicity for all ages combined was available at the city and county levels for all of the six requisite groups, but race/ethnicity by age was only available for non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic Black, Latino, and the remainder of the population. To estimate the number non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islanders, non-Hispanic Native Americans, and non-Hispanic Others among the remainder for each age group, we applied the distribution of these three groups from the overall city and county populations (across all ages) to that remainder. So, for example, if non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islanders were 20 percent of the combined non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic Native American, and non-Hispanic Other populations of all ages in a particular city or county, we assumed that the same was true within each of the three age categories (under 18, 18 to 64, and over 64).
For 1990, the level of detail available in the underlying data differed at the city and county levels, calling for different estimation strategies. At the county level, data by race/ethnicity was taken from STF2A, while data by race/ethnicity and age was taken from the 1990 MARS file—a special tabulation of people by age, race, sex, and Hispanic origin. However, to be consistent with the way race is categorized by the OMB’s Directive 15, the MARS file allocates all persons identifying as “other race alone” or multiracial to a specific race. After confirming that population totals by county (across all ages) were consistent between the MARS file and STF2A, we calculated the number of “other race alone” or multiracial people who had been added to each racial/ethnic group in each county by subtracting the number who were reported in STF2A for the corresponding group. We then derived the share of each racial/ethnic group in the MARS file (across all ages) that was made up of “other race alone” or multiracial people and applied it to estimate the number of people by race/ethnicity and age group exclusive of “other race alone” or multiracial people and the total number of “other race alone” or multiracial people in each age group.
For the 1990 city-level estimates, all data were from STF1, which provided counts of the total population for the six broad racial/ethnic groups detailed in the Atlas but not counts by age. Rather, age counts were only available for people by single race alone (including those of Hispanic origin) as well as for all people of Hispanic origin combined. To estimate the number of people by race/ethnicity and age for the six broad racial/ethnic groups that are detailed in the Atlas, we first calculated the share of each single race alone group that was Hispanic based on the overall population (across all ages). We then applied it 16 to the population counts by age and race alone to generate an initial estimate of the number of Hispanic and non-Hispanic people in each age/race alone category. This initial estimate was multiplied an adjustment factor (specific to each age group) to ensure that the sum of the estimated number of Hispanic people across the race alone categories within each age group equated to the “actual” number of Hispanic origin by age as reported in STF1. Finally, an Iterative Proportional Fitting (IPF) procedure was applied to ensure that our final estimate of the number people by race/ethnicity and age was consistent with the total population by race/ethnicity (across all ages) and total population by age group (across all racial/ethnic categories) as reported in STF1. See the methodology page for other relevant notes.
- Data for 2020 represents a 2016-2020 average.