Group of people watching program

Why Do Racial Demographics Matter?

The percentage of BIPOC people in Seattle is growing, but diversity alone does not create equity. Understanding where BIPOC residents live and what resources they can access helps determine where public services should be focused to reduce disparities.

Understanding racial demographics helps us lead with race.

Racially unjust systems limit people's social, economic, and political opportunities. The Race and Social Justice Initiative leads with race while acknowledging other forms of oppression, including sexism, homophobia, and ableism. Dismantling racism creates equity for everybody.

Data and stories are both important.

Statistics are an important tool, but they do not always tell the full story. For example, while the percentage of all BIPOC people in Seattle has grown since 1990, the percentage of Black and Indigenous people in Seattle has actually decreased during that time.

In order to truly understand what people in the community need, we need to know about them as people: their joy, pain, hopes, and dreams.

What Are Seattle’s Racial Demographics?

The maps and charts below include US Census estimates for 2010-2019.  Some insights from the data:

  • All Seattle neighborhoods have at least 10% of residents identifying as a person of color. If we narrow the focus, we see that South Seattle neighborhoods average 69% people of color.
  • large decrease from the 1980s, when the Black population comprised roughly 10 percent of Seattle's population.  
  • Latinx residents are about 6.5% of the city's population.
  • The city's population also includes a smaller percentage of Pacific Islander, American Indian, and Alaska Native residents.

The largest proportions of people of color, particularly people identifying as Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI), live in Rainier Valley, Pioneer Square, and the Chinatown-International District. Latinos are the predominant group in South Park and Roxhill/Westwood, and Black communities are predominant in the Mt. Baker/North Rainier and Rainier Beach neighborhoods.

While presenting this data, we acknowledge that Seattle is part of the unceded lands of the first people of Seattle, the Duwamish, and other tribes. Tribes struggle for federal recognition and experience homelessness at higher rates than other populations in Seattle and King County.

More data on the racial and ethnic characteristics of Seattle's population can be found on the City's Population and Demographics website.

Stories from the Community

The Black Experience

Community members from King County Equity Now, Decriminalize Seattle, Converge MediaBlack Trans Task Force, and Morning March Seattle discuss the Black Experience in Seattle.

Seattle at 150: Vanishing Central District

Longtime residents of the Central District discuss the effects of gentrification on their neighborhood.

What Are Some Root Causes of Segregation and Displacement?

RSJI defines four types of racism

  • Internalized
  • Individual
  • Institutional
  • Structural
Structural and institutional racism are the primary cause of segregation and displacement for BIPOC people in the community. In Seattle, segregation and displacement have continued even as the city becomes more diverse.

Seattle was founded by using land laws to displace indigenous people. Over the years, BIPOC have faced many barriers to living in the Seattle area. For many years, racially restrictive covenants and redlining prevented BIPOC from purchasing or renting homes in certain areas. When the population of Black people in Seattle increased between 1940 and 1960, they were mainly restricted to neighborhoods such as the Central District, Beacon Hill, and Rainier Valley.  

Seattle's BIPOC population has been increasing since 2010. However, as a result of racist housing policies and gentrification, BIPOC individuals have been pushed out of Seattle to other cities in King County, which has seen a larger overall increase in BIPOC than Seattle.

During the 1950s-1970s, urban renewal programs displaced low-income citizens in Seattle, many of them BIPOC. In recent years, gentrification has displaced BIPOC communities. White households with higher incomes have moved into historically BIPOC neighborhoods like the Central District, increasing the cost of living and pushing out longtime residents.

To read more detailed information on specific neighborhoods, see:

Who Is Taking Action?

Explore the City of Seattle's Actions Towards Racial Equity

See who to contact, what we'll deliver, and how we plan on meeting our desired outcomes.