This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Twilight of Whites in America?

The demographic changes taking place in the US have been well known for a long time, but when new numbers come in, it is always good to contemplate what they tell us about the present and portend for the future. The US Census Bureau today released its latest estimates of the population by age, sex, race and ethnicity for "vintage" 2012, as they now call it--pretty trendy, I must say. Anyway, among the many changes noted by the Census Bureau, one of the more startling was the estimate that as of 2011, the number of deaths exceeded births among the non-Hispanic white population, albeit by a very small margin. That ethnic group continued to increase in number only because of international migration. The Census Bureau's news release contains many of the details, and the story was covered by many outlets, including the New York Times, with comments from the go-to guy on stories of this kind--Dr. William Frey:
“These new census estimates are an early signal alerting us to the impending decline in the white population that will characterize most of the 21st century,” said William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution.
The transition will mean that “today’s racial and ethnic minorities will no longer be dependent on older whites for their economic well-being,” Dr. Frey said. In fact, the situation may be reversed. “It makes more vivid than ever the fact that we will be reliant on younger minorities and immigrants for our future demographic and economic growth,” he said.
The viability of programs like Social Security and Medicare, Dr. Frey said, “will be reliant on the success of waves of young Hispanics, Asians and blacks who will become the bulwark of our labor force.” The issues of minorities, he added, “will hold greater sway than ever before.”
Keep in mind that these are estimates, not exact counts of anything, so there is at least some small margin of error. However, the US vital statistics data show that fertility dropped significantly among the non-Hispanic white population during the recent Depression. Although there might be some rebound as the economy improves, the aging of the non-Hispanic white population means that a rebound would affect an increasingly smaller number of women, so this trend towards the relative decline of the non-Hispanic white population seems pretty clearly to have accelerated a bit over the past few years, and it is hard to imagine that it will reverse itself. 

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