Southwestern Pennsylvania is starting to look more like the United States as the region’s population becomes more diverse, the latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates suggest.
The demographic shifts are most significant in Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh, where the Asian and Hispanic populations have been on the rise. In the five-year period from 2012 to 2017, for example, Allegheny County’s Asian population increased 23.9 percent to 48,396 residents and the Hispanic population grew 20.3 percent to 25,647 people.
“It’s a story of change,” said Chris Briem, regional economist at the University of Pittsburgh University Center for Social and Urban Research. “And it’s not the same in the City of Pittsburgh as it is in the outer counties.”
Allegheny County, which includes the City of Pittsburgh, is seeing a large increase in the Asian population and a decline in other groups, for example. At the same time, the county’s African American population declined 0.2 percent and the white population declined .4 percent.
Still, Asian and Hispanic residents only represent a small percentage of Allegheny County’s population at 3.9 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively. And that’s even more pronounced in other counties in southwestern Pennsylvania. Westmoreland County has a .9 percent Asian and 1.2 percent Hispanic population. And Asian residents make up only .3 percent of Fayette County’s population with Hispanics at .8 percent.
In the City of Pittsburgh, the student population impacts the demographics, particularly of young people in the region. With about 40 percent of young adults between ages 18 and 24 in the city of Pittsburgh are enrolled in one of the universities, Briem says, “That’s a tremendous percentage, so any changes you see in Pittsburgh is a cause or effect of that student population.”
National trends play a key role in the changes seen in southwestern Pennsylvania, he said. “In the City of Pittsburgh, we’re bringing in folks who reflect more of the U.S. than it has in the past. A lot of that is because the nation is growing much more diverse, so by osmosis we’re becoming more diverse.”