Racial Diversity's Impact on San Diego Politics | Voice of San Diego

Census 2010

Racial Diversity's Impact on San Diego Politics

As San Diego’s racial makeup becomes increasingly diverse, will
it spur changes in political power?


San Diego’s becoming more racially diverse. But that diversity’s predominantly in the younger population, not in the groups that maintain political power.

Fewer than 30 percent of San Diegans under age 18 identified themselves as white and not Latino in the 2010 Census while more than half of San Diegans over age 45 did, according to a voiceofsandiego.org analysis of census data.

That gap signals why San Diego will become even more diverse as its youngest residents age, have children and become the city’s elders. But it also shows how the racial divide between the youngest and those in political power has widened. While fewer white people now live in San Diego, white politicians still dominate its political representation.

All of San Diego’s congressional delegation is white. San Diego’s mayor is white, as are the four major candidates vying to succeed him. Though the census showed most San Diego residents aren’t white, nearly all of its school, city, county and state representatives are. (Find out who represents you here.)

Subscribe to the Morning Report.

The contrast is also stark in the judicial system, where the decisions made by mostly white, older people can have considerable impacts on the lives of mostly non-white, younger people. About 77 percent of San Diego County’s 130 judges are white, according to the most recent tally by the courts. All of the city’s top law enforcement officials are white, too.

The gap between race and political power gained attention this year as various levels of government redrew their political boundaries. Advocates for Latinos, Asians and African Americans pushed for greater segregation — districts including higher concentrations of people of the same race.

And they succeeded in at least two battles. The city added a predominantly Latino council district stretching from College Area to Southcrest. The county shifted the boundaries of its southernmost district to encompass more racial minorities. In both, the number of white residents will be outnumbered by other residents.

Advocates said the new boundaries would provide racial minorities a greater voice in civic affairs. But whether that comes true remains to be seen in next summer’s elections and years after. Today, white politicians still dominate the city’s political seats of power.

This story is part of an occasional series on the 2010 Census and San Diego’s shifting communities. We’ve previously noted the decline of black residents in historically black neighborhoods, gentrification near downtown San Diego and some important distinctions between race and ethnicity.

What should we write about next? Send me an email or leave a comment below about the communities or population changes that you find the most interesting.

Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. He writes about public safety and handles the Fact Check Blog.

Please contact him directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.

Like VOSD on Facebook.

What do you think?