US changes colour
A NATION OF minorities. It’s official. Last year, for the first time in its history, more babies (50.4 per cent) were born in the US to minority community parents – blacks, Asians, and Hispanics – than to white parents. It’s a demographic and psychological milestone which, Census Bureau officials say, on current trends presages a reality that by 2042 non-Hispanic whites will actually be outnumbered in the US. A standstill in Mexican immigration may just push that date back a bit, but minorities accounted for 92 per cent of US population growth in the decade that ended in 2010.
Whites are no longer the majority in four states, and have slipped below half in many major conurbations, like New York, Las Vegas and Memphis. Minorities make up about 37 per cent of the US population, but three decades of immigration by younger people, declining births, and an ageing white population mean that minorities are producing babies at a far faster rate than whites. Overall, the annual white non-Hispanic population rise is barely above the point where births exceed deaths. And immigration, while changing the dynamic, is not the biggest driver of the numbers – there were more children born in the last decade to Hispanic parents than there were arriving Hispanic immigrants.
The inter-minority dynamics are also changing – among those over 50, blacks remain the largest minority, while among the young, and the babies in the first “minority majority” national creche, Hispanics have stepped into second place behind whites and have in recent years also become an increasingly potent political force. Of the total births in the year that ended last July, about 26 per cent were Hispanic, about 15 per cent black, and about 4 per cent Asian.
There are huge challenges, not least in education – the US has a poor record in educating minority children, and blacks and Latinos still lag far behind whites in getting college degrees, key to employment. But the rising numbers are also an economic advantage. Unlike Europe where ageing populations pose serious dependency challenges, the US should be able to support its aged. “If the US depended on white births alone, we’d be dead,” argues Prof Dowell Myers of the University of Southern California. “Without the contributions from all these other groups, we would become too top-heavy with old people.” A reality check which white America, still uneasy about race, has yet to absorb.