by John Hoole
In the decade since the 2000 census, the racial balance in the Rainier Valley has shifted from 27% white, 23% black, 38% Asian in 2000 to 31% white, 22% black, and 35% Asian in 2010. During that period, the Rainier Valley’s total population increased by 3,887 to 83,968.
The Valley’s white population increased by 4,376 to 26,235 since 2000. The number of white residents declined in 6 census tracts, but none lost more than 150. Over the course of the decade, the white population jumped most dramatically — by 486 residents — in census tracts 110.01 and 110.02, which include NewHolly/Othello.
The 2010 census appears to show a modest reversal of the historic trend of whites leaving the Rainier Valley. Between 1960 and 1970, southeast Seattle lost 11,962, or 20%, of its white residents. From 1970 to 2000, another 27,767 left.
Between 2000 and 2010, the number of black/African American residents in Rainier Valley increased by 208 to 18,465. The black population increased by 1,182 in census tracts 110.01 and 110.02, which include NewHolly/Othello. Though the census is silent on the matter, it’s likely that a fair number of these new residents are East African immigrants.
From 1970 to 1980, the black population of Rainier Valley doubled to 20,000, making up 29% of the total, and from that time the number leveled off and started to decline, dropping to 27% of the total by the time of the 2000 census.
Between 2000 and 2010, the Rainier Valley’s Asian population dropped by 605 to 29,716. During that decade the number of Asian residents has declined in all but 4 of the Valley’s 16 census tracts. These four are adjacent census tracts that run down the west side of the Valley from Graham southward to the city limits. — 110.1, 110.2 (the Othello/NewHolly census tracts), 117, 119. The population identified in the census as Pacific Islander has declined in all but the southern-most census tract.
The 2010 census seems to show a leveling off of the decades long increase of the Valley’s Asian population (which almost tripled between 1970 and 2000).
The Native American population has decreased by 255 or 30% to 615 since 2000. The biggest drop, from 137 to 68, was the census tracts that include the redeveloped west side of the the Rainier Vista housing project.
In both the 2000 and 2010 census, the north-south axis separating southeast Seattle’s census tracts (Rainier Avenue in the north and Martin Luther King Jr Way in the south) is a significant border. Forty-four percent of the Valley’s population lives on the west side and 55% on the east. Eighty percent of white residents (up from 70% as of the 2000 census) and 68% of black residents lived east of Rainier/MLK. For Asians, the proportion is flipped, with 57% living on the west side and 43% on the east.
Thirty-four percent of the Rainier Valley’s white residents could be found in the three northeastern-most census tracts along the shore of Lake Washington. Thirty-three percent of southeast Seattle’s African American population lived in the 3 southern-most census tracts. Thirty-two percent of the Valley’s Asian population could be found in three census tracts west of MLK on either side of Graham Street running up Beacon Hill.
Earlier this year, Remapping Debate released an interactive map based on 2005-2009 Census Block Group data that it says illustrates segregation right down to the city block level, revealing some otherwise hidden truths not necessarily apparent in the larger geographic areas represented by Census Tracts.