According to the 2010 census, Seattle had a population of 608,660 and the racial and ethnic composition was as follows:
- White: 69.5% (Non-Hispanic Whites: 66.3%)
- Asian: 13.8% (4.1% Chinese, 2.6% Filipino, 2.2% Vietnamese, 1.3% Japanese, 1.1% Korean, 0.8% Indian, 0.3% Cambodian, 0.3% Laotian, 0.2% Thai)
- Black or African American: 7.9%
- American Indian and Alaska Native: 0.8%
- Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: 0.4%
- Other race: 2.4%
- Two or more races: 5.1%
- Hispanic or Latino (of any race): 6.6% (4.1% Mexican, 0.3% Puerto Rican, 0.2% Guatemalan, 0.2% Salvadoran, 0.2% Cuban)
Seattle's population has historically been predominantly white. The 2010 census showed that Seattle was one of the whitest big cities in the country, but the percentage of whites has been gradually declining. In 1960, whites comprised 91.6% of the city's population, but by 2010 the percentage of whites had shrunk to 69.5%, as compared with a national average of 73.4%. According to the 2006–2008 American Community Survey, approximately 78.9% of residents over the age of five spoke only English at home. While Spanish was spoken by 4.5% of the population, people who spoke other Indo-European languages made up 3.9% of the population, and people who spoke Asian languages other than Indo-European languages at home made up 10.2% of the population. People who spoke other languages made up 2.5% of the population.
Seattle has seen steady growth in racial and ethnic diversity, with the immigrant population growing 40% between the 1990 and 2000 censuses. According to a 2010 United States Census Bureau report, Seattle's 98118 zip code (in the Columbia City neighbourhood) was the most multicultural zip code in the United States. The Chinese population in the Seattle area has origins in mainland China, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, and Taiwan. The earliest Chinese-Americans that came in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were almost entirely from Guangdong province. The Seattle area is also home to a high Vietnamese population, at over 55,000 residents, and over 30,000 Somali immigrants. The Seattle-Tacoma area is also home to one of the largest Cambodian communities in the United States, enumerating about 19,000 Cambodian Americans, as well as one of the largest Samoan communities in the mainland U.S., with over 15,000 people having Samoan ancestry. The Seattle area also had the highest percentage of self-identified mixed-race people of any large metropolitan area in the United States, according to the 2000 United States Census Bureau.
As of 1999, the median income of a city household was $45,736, and the median income for a family was $62,195. Males had a median income of $40,929 versus $35,134 for females. The per capita income for the city was $30,306. 11.8% of the population and 6.9% of families are below the poverty line. Of people living in poverty, 13.8% are under the age of 18 and 10.2% are 65 or older.
It is estimated that King County has 8,000 homeless people on any given night, and many of those live in Seattle. In September 2005, King County adopted a "Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness", one of the near-term results of which is a shift of funding from homeless shelter beds to permanent housing.
In recent years, the city has seen steady population growth, and has been faced with the issue of accommodating more residents. In 2006, after growing by 4,000 citizens per year for the previous 16 years, regional planners expected the population of Seattle to grow by 200,000 people by 2040. However, former mayor Greg Nickels supported plans that would increase the population by 60%, or 350,000 people, by 2040 and worked on ways to accommodate this growth while keeping Seattle's single-family housing zoning laws. The Seattle City Council later voted to relax height limits on buildings in the greater part of Downtown, partly with the aim to increase residential density in the city centre. As a sign of increasing inner-city growth, the downtown population crested to over 60,000 in 2009, up 77% since 1990.
Seattle also has a robust gay population. A 2006 study by UCLA indicated that the city has one of the highest LGBT populations per capita. With 12.9% of citizens polled identifying as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, the city ranks second of all major U.S. cities, behind San Francisco and slightly ahead of Atlanta and Minneapolis. Greater Seattle also ranks second among major U.S. metropolitan areas, with 6.5% of the population being LGB.
In addition, Seattle has a relatively high number of people living alone. According to the 2000 U.S. Census interim measurements of 2004, Seattle has the fifth highest proportion of single-person households nationwide among cities of 100,000 or more residents, at 40.8%.
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