80 percent of Americans over 65 years old is white; among American aged 45 – 60, 75 percent are white. But within just about half a century, the US population will be quite different: For the first time, more than half of the children under 2 years old in the US were born to minorities who will one day — one day soon — become the majority.
These figures offer a preview of data from the 2010 US census and indicate nothing less than a “changing social order,” says the Associated Press. Says Laura Speer, coordinator of the Kids Count project for the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation:
“We’re moving toward an acknowledgment that we’re living in a different world than the 1950s, where married or two-parent heterosexual couples are now no longer the norm for a lot of kids, especially kids of color.”
Non-Hispanic white children now comprise just under half of children under 3 years old; in 1990, they made up more than 60 percent. Further, in twelve states and the District of Columbia — Hawaii, California, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Florida, Maryland, Georgia, New Jersey, New York and Mississippi — fewer than 40 percent of children under the age of 5 are white. If the current demographic trends continue, seven more states might “flip to ‘minority-majority’ status among small children in the next decade: Illinois, North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, Connecticut, South Carolina and Delaware.”
Already in my home state of California, minorities comprise 58 percent of the population and are truly the minority no more. In 2000, 51 percent of California’s population were minorities.
Much of the “race change” is due to young Hispanic women having more children than white women, who generally have fewer children and who, as a group, are moving beyond their childbearing years.
As William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution who analyzed the data says, the new census data “will show a minority majority of our youngest Americans, makes plain that our future labor force is absolutely dependent on our ability to integrate and educate a new diverse child population.” Indeed, the new figures are appearing in a climate of rising hostility to immigrants, with some states — Alabama, Arizona, Georgia and South Carolina — passing laws that require schools to report students’ immigration status to state authorities.
We live in northern New Jersey just across the Hudson River from New York City and have definitely seen these demographic changes, in the streets and in our classrooms. My husband teaches at a university in Manhattan and I teach at a college in Jersey City, a far smaller city that is said to be one of the most racially diverse in the world, with a large Kenyan population, the country’s largest Egyptian Coptic population, large numbers of Indian and Filipino residents, among many other groups. I grew up in the Bay Area in northern California and remember often being the only Asian in my elementary school classes. I’m quite sure things look very different now — what a change a few decades can make.
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