How soon will minorities make up a majority in Palm Beach County?

Palm Beach County’s white population is on the decline. As of a year ago, whites made up 56 percent of the population, a drop from 70 percent in 2000, recently released U.S. Census estimates show.

If the pace persists, by 2025 the white population of Palm Beach County will cease being the majority for the first time, a Palm Beach Post analysis shows. This could mean that in eight years, 49.9 percent of the county’s projected 1.6 million residents could be white.

While Palm Beach County’s white population has been climbing since 2013, it dropped for seven years in a row starting in 2006 at the height of the housing market, when housing costs hit historic highs.

The dips continued through the housing crash and recession that followed. As a result, the county’s white population has dropped 14.5 percentage points since 2000, Census figures show.

Meanwhile, the black and Hispanic populations have continued to grow every year.

In 2016, the Hispanic population rose to 21.5 percent of the Palm Beach County population from 12.6 percent in 2000. Blacks made up 18.3 percent of the population in 2016, a 64 percent increase since 2000.

When jobs dried up during the recession, 21,000 people left Palm Beach County in two years, said Stefan Rayer, population program director for the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida.

Most were white, he said.

Whites also have lower birth rates. In 2014, 17 states, including Florida, had more white deaths than births, a University of New Hampshire study found.

And in Palm Beach County, whites tend to be older — over 50 — while the majority of Hispanics and blacks are younger than 50.

The white population had the greatest amount of growth in the 1990s, Rayer said. “In the 2000s, that population began to decline,” he said.

The 2025 projection is based on the Census Bureau’s estimates for population change from 2010 to 2016, which included some years of white population decline.

The trend is not unique. Seven of Florida’s 67 counties already have become majority-minority, which means minority residents make up more than 50 percent of the county’s population.

Miami-Dade County has been such a county since at least 2000.

Broward County turned majority-minority in 2006. The county’s white population dropped from 58 percent in 2000 to 38 percent in 2016, while the Hispanic and black population grew by 7 and 4 percentage points, respectively.

A year after Broward, Orange County’s white population fell below 50 percent. The Hispanic population in the county that includes Orlando rose from 19 percent to 31 percent from 2000 to 2016. The black population grew by 54 percent. 

The other majority-minority counties all have fewer than 1 million residents: Osceola, Gadsden, Hardee and Hendry counties.

Martin County, just north of Palm Beach County, remains majority white, although the percentage is slipping. Whites made up 86 percent of the Martin County population in 2000, dropping to 79 percent 16 years later.

The Hispanic population of Martin County has been on the rise, reaching 13 percent in 2016. Blacks make up 5 percent of the population.

While Palm Beach County’s white population is shrinking, its schools have been majority-minority for more than a decade.

White students make up one-third of Palm Beach County’s public schools, as do Hispanic and black students. In 2006, white students made up 43 percent of the county’s public school population while Hispanics made up 24 percent and blacks 29.5 percent.

Palm Beach County remains unique, Rayer said, for its large population of retirees. Still, the Census estimates shined a light on a new trend: Millennials are making Palm Beach County their home.

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