2020 census: Berkeley is denser and more diverse than it was 10 years ago

The Black population has dropped 13% since 2010, to about 9,500, while the proportion of Hispanic and Asian residents grew, new numbers show.


Berkeley’s population has grown by 10% since 2010, with the proportion of Hispanic and Asian residents growing slightly as white and Black segments fell, according to 2020 data released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The numbers mirror demographic trends in both the region and the nation, which saw 9% population growth in metro areas from 2010 to 2020, the Census Bureau said Thursday.

Berkeley, which now has a population of about 124,000 people, is 50% white, down from 55% in 2010, 20% Asian (up from 19%), 14% Hispanic (up from 11%) and 8% Black (down from 10%), according to the latest census numbers.

Berkeley’s Hispanic population has jumped a whopping 39% since 2010, to about 17,000 people, and the Asian population has grown by 15%, to nearly 25,000.


Meanwhile, Berkeley’s Black population dropped 13%, to about 9,500, while the white population stayed mostly flat, at about 62,500, according to the Census Bureau.

Some of those numbers appear even starker in Berkeley’s under-18 population, which dropped by 28% for Black youth, but grew by 33% for Asian youth and 14% for Hispanic youth.

The percentage of the Berkeley population reporting two or more races has grown by 64%, and is now more than 9,000 people, according to the 2020 census.

Berkeley’s Diversity Index, the likelihood that two people chosen at random will be from different ethnic groups, jumped from 64% in 2010 to 68% in 2020. The Berkeley number is still lower than in nearby Oakland (77%) and Alameda County (75%), but saw a larger increase since 2010 than either of those jurisdictions, which remained essentially flat.

California has the second-highest Diversity Index in the nation, at 70%, just after Hawaii, at 76%. The United States overall has a Diversity Index of 61%.

Census officials said some of the apparent increases are likely the result of better methodology: “It is important to note that these data comparisons between the 2020 Census and 2010 Census race data should be made with caution, taking into account the improvements we have made to the Hispanic origin and race questions and the ways we code what people tell us.”

Berkeley housing units are up almost 6%, census says

The 2020 census data also includes several numbers related to Berkeley housing trends. Berkeley now has about 52,300 housing units, up nearly 6% since 2010. About 4,700 of them — just over 9% — were vacant as of the 2020 census.

This number was higher than the 6% vacancy rate reported in Oakland, and the 5% vacancy rate in Alameda County, as of 2020.

It was unclear as of this week what may explain that disparity, but Berkeley did struggle throughout the count with low response rates around the UC Berkeley campus, as many students had gone home due to COVID-19 but should have been included as part of the city’s population.

Even with the vacancy rate issue, Berkeley saw an 11% increase as of 2020 in its density, which is a measure of the city’s population divided by its land area.

The summary dataset released this week was designed primarily for use in redistricting efforts, the Census Bureau said. Broader datasets designed for easier consumption by the public are slated to be published in September at data.census.gov.

Editor’s Note: Berkeleyside is indebted to Stanford University’s Big Local News project, the Poynter Institute and Angeliki Kastanis of the Associated Press for processing 2020 U.S. census data to make it more readily available to reporters this week.

Emilie Raguso is Berkeleyside’s senior editor of news. Email: emilie@berkeleyside.org. Twitter: emraguso. Phone: 510-459-8325.