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Census Bureau Director Robert Groves, announcing results of the 2010 Census last December. For sure, the 2020 Census data will be very different. (AP photo)

The U.S., soon to be majority-minority

ASK THIS | October 25, 2011

Non-Hispanic whites still make up the majority in America but they won't much longer. Census figures show the two largest states, California and Texas, already are majority-minority; so are 22 of the 100 largest metro areas. Writer J.W. Anderson asks: Are citizens prepared for such a major change? Are politicians? Is the press?

By J.W. Anderson

Try this thought experiment: Imagine a community in which most of the taxpayers are white and in upper middle age, while most of the small children are Hispanic, Asian or black. And in this community, the issue is the budget for early childhood education. Is the school tax more likely to go up, or down?

Imagine, further, that the white taxpayers understand that, as those kids grow up and reach voting age, the political power in the community is going to shift sharply to them. Does that make the decision easier, or more difficult?

There you have a miniature model, simplified but accurate, of the United States as it is reflected in the 2010 Census. It helps explain the behavior of the political system as it struggles with the tensions being generated by rapid change in the American population. Wide areas of this country, including both of the two most populous states, are now what the statisticians call minority-majority – meaning that the accustomed majority group, non- Hispanic whites, are fewer than half of their people.

The most important political documents of the year are, arguably, the reports on the 2010 Census. The national figures came out last winter, and the Census Bureau is now publishing data at the level of counties and congressional districts. (For an introduction, see this interactive map.)

Nationwide, non-Hispanic whites are still a large majority – but not so large as they used to be. They were 69.1 per cent of the population in the 2000 Census, but 63.7 per cent 10 years later. In California, the state with the most people and often a leader in social trends, non-Hispanic whites are 40.1 per cent. In Texas, second-largest, they are 45.3 per cent.

The major reason for this massive change is birth rates. Among non-Hispanic whites, birth rates have dropped to a point barely above the replacement level – similar to the spectacular drops, incidentally, in the European countries from which most of this population originally came. Birth rates are much higher among the minorities, especially among Hispanics.

Analyzing the Census numbers, the Pew Hispanic Center recently reported that while the increase of the Hispanic population in this country was mainly fed by immigration as recently as the 1990s, the pattern shifted in the past decade when the growth was, by a wide margin, due to children born here.

In the decade from 2000 to 2010, the country’s total population grew 9.7 per cent. But the non-Hispanic white population grew only 1.2 per cent. In the same 10 years, the Hispanic population grew 43.0 per cent. The Asian population grew 43.3 per cent. The African American population grew at a rate closer to the national average, 12.3 per cent.

To get a sense of the future trend, look at the age profile. Americans over the age of 55 are now about 77 per cent non-Hispanic white. But, as William H. Frey of the Brookings Institution pointed out earlier this year, the 2010 Census shows that more than half of American three-year-olds are now minority. It means that if immigration went to zero tomorrow, and the birth rates of the respective ethnic and racial groups continued unchanged, the non-Hispanic white majority would disappear within several decades.

The change is bringing increased weight at the ballot box to groups in the population whose interests and needs are different from those of the present majority. Hispanics in particular tend to be younger, poorer, less secure and less well educated than the American average.

“More Latino children are living in poverty – 6.1 million in 2010 – than children of any other racial or ethnic group. This marks the first time in U.S. history that the single largest group of poor children is not white,” the Pew Hispanic Center observed in September.

American tradition takes it for granted that within a generation or so immigrants always will rise toward greater prosperity, but current evolution in the economy – notably rising demands for educated and highly skilled labor, and the increasing costs of obtaining that education – are making it harder to climb the ladder than in the past.

Minority population growth over the past decade has been largely concentrated in the big metropolitan areas. Frey, the Brookings demographer, writes that five of the 100 biggest metro areas were minority-majority in 1990. But in 2010, 22 were minority-majority, including New York, Los Angeles, and Houston.

“Rapid ‘new minority’ gains to these areas coupled with very modest growth, or often declines, in white population,” Frey concluded, “put these areas on the front lines of a transformative era affecting public policy and race relations for decades to come.”

Demographic singularity
Posted by Nat Irvin
10/25/2011, 08:33 PM

Mr. Anderson,

Thanks for sharing your insights on this issue. It is a remarkable reality about the American future that many Americans don't seem to mind that this demographic shift is happening and happening at such a rapid rate. As a child who grew up in the era of a segregated America,I would have thought that there would be more Pat Buchananites storming the Bastille demanding an end to this future face of America; yet this is not happening. I do wonder however about the irony of how aging whites will literally be dependent upon younger non whites...to provide their entitlements...Irony of all ironies...

Intermarriage may help to ease the transition
Posted by tom costantino
11/19/2011, 02:37 PM

One thing that is being overlooked is the high degree of intermarriage going on in the USA with 9% of white newlyweds marrying non-whites in 2008. Their children will be non-white.

As such, the parents and siblings of those of those whites who intermarry will be become directly part of this new multiracial mainstream. So when they vote for increasing taxes to fund schools, they will be thinking of their mixed race nieces, nephews, and grandchildren.

Just like the Italians (who look quite different from the original British settlers) were incorporated through intermarriage, America will slowly absorb the rest and perhaps, we will not even notice the transition.

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