The US Melting Pot Keeps on Bubbling

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Two articles were published last week, one in the New York Times and one in the Wall Street Journal, following further analysis of the US’ 2010 census. This is a once-a-decade head count of US residents, regardless of citizenship, conducted by the US Census Bureau.  The census data provides a snapshot of the US ten years after the last snapshot and allows researchers to evaluate how the US has changed since the turn of the millennium. 

Essentially, these articles report on the fact that the future population of the United States will be more Hispanic, more Asian, less African-American and less white.  This is as a result of the growing diversity of the US’ under-18 population.  It is not that the number of white and African-American children is growing at a slower rate.  No, the fact is that the US is growing more diverse because the number of Hispanic and Asian children is growing while the number of white and African-American children is declining.  According to the Wall Street Journal:

“The data show the extent to which the U.S. has become dependent on minorities—Hispanics in particular—for the next generation of Americans. From 2000 to 2010, almost half of states saw a decline in the number of children. Without Hispanics, America's under-18 population would have declined between 2000 and 2010…The number of non-Hispanic white children fell by 4.3 million over the decade. Children in two other longstanding U.S. minority groups, blacks and Native Americans, also saw small decreases. Meantime, the number of Hispanic and Asian children grew by 5.5 million, with 4.8 million of those Hispanic.” (Emphasis added).

The reason for this change is that while the US’ white population is getting older, its Hispanic population is still relatively young.  As the New York Times states:

“The single largest increase was among Hispanics, whose birthrates are far above those of non-Hispanic whites, largely because the white population is aging and proportionally has fewer women in their child-bearing years. The median age of whites is 41, compared with 27 for Hispanics…”

So what does this mean for the future of the US?  The Wall Street Journal again:

“Shifts in the youth population's racial makeup suggest the U.S. could become a "majority-minority" nation—where non-Hispanic whites account for less than half of the population—before the 2042 date that the Census Bureau has estimated in the past…”

This is already the case in some states in the under-18 age group:

“In 10 states, white children are now a minority among their peers, including six that tipped between 2000 and 2010. Others will follow soon: In 23 states, minorities make up more than 40% of the child population.”

So the US is faced with a growing, young Hispanic population and a shrinking, older white population.  As the New York Times states, this fact raises interesting policy questions:

“America’s future will include a far more diverse young population, and a largely white older generation. The contrast raises important policy questions. Will the older generation pay for educating a younger generation that looks less like itself? And while the young population is a potential engine of growth for the economy, will it be a burden if it does not have access to adequate education?”

I would be surprised if the largely older white population suddenly stops paying for “a younger generation that looks less like itself”, especially as they will be relying on that younger generation to fund its pension plans.  However, will we see the debate over funding between old and young generations taking on a racial tinge?  And how long before the US sees an Hispanic presidential nomination?  Or will questions of race become less important as the country becomes more diverse? The melting pot in the US is still melting away.

MORE ON THESE TOPICS | Census, Hispanic, United States, Youth

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Welcome to Demography Is Destiny. We launched this to counter two media memes: that humans are a cancer which is destroying our planet and that world population is spiralling to unsustainable levels. The real story is that intelligent and inventive humans will rise to the challenge of climate change and that our real problem is the coming demographic winter. The editors of Demography is Destiny are Marcus and Shannon Roberts, who live in Auckland, New Zealand. Send them your comments and suggestions. 

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