Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 49.6 percent of all births in the 12-month period that ended last July, according to Census Bureau data made public on Thursday, while minorities — including Hispanics, blacks, Asians and those of mixed race — reached 50.4 percent, representing a majority for the first time in the country’s history.The trend toward greater minority births has been building for years, the result of the large wave of immigration here over the past three decades. Hispanics make up the majority of immigrants, and they tend to be younger — and to have more children — than non-Hispanic whites. (Of the total births in the year that ended last July, about 26 percent were Hispanic, about 15 percent black, and about 4 percent Asian.)
Whites still represent the single largest share of all births, at 49.6 percent, and are an overwhelming majority in the population as a whole, at 63.4 percent. But they are aging, causing a tectonic shift in American demographics. The median age for non-Hispanic whites is 42 — meaning the bulk of women are moving out of their prime childbearing years.
The problem, of course, is that older whites may not feel the same generational bonding with minority children and it is from that changing face of the youth that some of the angst stems among older Americans. On the other hand, those kids will be the ones paying the bills for the elderly.
And the fact that the country is getting a burst of births from nonwhites is a huge advantage, argues Dowell Myers, professor of policy, planning and demography at the University of Southern California. European societies with low levels of immigration now have young populations that are too small to support larger aging ones, exacerbating problems with the economy.
“If the U.S. depended on white births alone, we’d be dead,” Mr. Myers said. “Without the contributions from all these other groups, we would become too top-heavy with old people.”
Still, there are enormous challenges, especially around education, as William Frey at Brookings noted:
A college degree has become the most important building block of success in today’s economy, but blacks and Latinos lag far behind whites in getting one. According to Mr. Frey, just 13 percent of Hispanics and 18 percent of blacks have a college degree, compared with 31 percent of whites.You can see and hear Bill Frey say these things himself on the PBS News Hour.