By: Arron Williams
May 18 2023
Changes to California's white population are tied to changes in Hispanic identity; there is no evidence of a Great Replacement.
A recent Tweet posted on May 4, 2023, claims that the Great Replacement theory is real and uses images to state that the white population of California was 94 percent in 1950, and decreased to 36 percent in 2021. Comments on the post make further assertions that diversity is weakening the U.S. and that cultures “don’t mix.” The post has over 3.9 million views and 24,000 likes.
The “Great Replacement” is a known dangerous far-right and racist conspiracy theory and Californian demographic data does not prove that it is real.
According to the most recent census by the United States Census Bureau from 2020, 41 percent of California’s total population is considered “white alone.” Overall, 60 percent of California’s population is noted as non-Hispanic with 39 percent listed as Hispanic. 16 percent of the Hispanic population identified as white, while 57 percent of the non-Hispanic population also identified as white. The 1950 census population notes that about 94 percent of California’s population identified as white.
The issue is complicated by definitions of race. The United States Census Bureau does not categorize Hispanic as a race, but rather as an ethnicity, meaning that people “who identify as Hispanic, Latino or Spanish may be of any race.” The Los Angeles Times reports that the Hispanic population is now less likely to identify as white, which has affected census figures. In 2010 about 53 percent of Latinos identified as white, and in 2020 the percentage dropped to about 20 percent. This is partly explained by Latino millennials identifying as people of color alongside support for the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) label.
Methodological changes to how the census collects data have also affected the figures. The United States Census Bureau told Logically Facts that “there are limitations with comparing data from 2020 to data from last century, most notably that the categories (and groups classified within them) have changed over time.” As NPR elaborates, the 2010 census used a combined question model, where it placed the option for Hispanic origin alongside race with the option for a user to “check all that apply.” This had a dramatic effect and decreased the number of Latinos who checked white from roughly 50 percent to between 9 and 16 percent, depending on which survey they used.
The claim also ignores the history of California. According to the Library of Congress, California was a Spanish colony that gained independence and became part of Mexico. Prior to 1824, there were few residents of non-Hispanic birth, thus California has always had a Hispanic population.
As previously reported by Logically, the Great Replacement is a far-right conspiracy theory with French roots that has become a magnet for xenophobia, racism, and antisemitism, while having no basis in fact. Proponents of the theory allege that the increased presence of immigrants in “white” countries combined with lower birth rates among white populations will result in a non-white majority population that will take control of national institutions, eradicate the country's culture, and destroy the white population. However, this is unfounded.
The Great Replacement is a known and unsubstantiated racist conspiracy theory. There is no reasonable basis to interpret population statistics from California as evidence that the “white race” is being replaced. Changes in the data reflect changes to how people identify and how race and ethnicity are recorded, not that the white population has significantly decreased and been “replaced.” Therefore, we have marked this claim as false.