Presaging a major shift in demographic structure that could see whites become a minority in the U.S. sooner than expected, the country’s Census Bureau (CB) unveiled a startling finding in data suggesting that for the first time ever white babies represented only 49.6 per cent of all births in the 12-month period that ended in July 2011.
On the flip side ethnic minority babies during that period, including Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians and mixed race infants, comprised 50.4 per cent of the total, again an unprecedented statistical majority. This is up from 49.5 per cent from the 2010 Census taken April 1, 2010, according to the CB, which defines a minority as “anyone who is not single-race white and not Hispanic.”
Within the category of minorities, Asians, numbering 18.2 million nationally in 2011, were the second fastest-growing minority group with a 3 per cent growth rate since 2010. Their growth was only outranked by Hispanics, whose population increased by 3.1 per cent during the same period.
The shifting demographic balance marks a longer-term tectonic shift in the share of the white population of the U.S., which has slid downwards steadily since the post-War baby-boomer generation.
The transformation has brought a significant amount of friction in terms of social policies, particularly relating to immigration controls in states such as Arizona, Alabama, Texas and California. Currently U.S. courts are considering whether sweeping stop-and-search powers, seen by critics as staunchly anti-immigrant policies, granted to local law enforcement authorities by these states are constitutional.
The declining share of whites in the population is also likely to affect political outcomes, including the November 2012 elections. According to William Frey, a population expert at the Brookings Institution, racial and ethnic minorities, especially Hispanics, are dominating national growth and will for decades to come.
In this context Mr. Frey said, “The Democratic [Party’s] agenda – favouring broader federal support for medical care, housing, and education seems designed to curry the favour of these groups, which played a huge role in tipping the balance in [Mr. Obama’s] favour in several key swing states.”
While the latest CB results relate to the number of live births in the country, the relative shares of whites and ethnic minorities in the adult population were not expected to reflect a similar balance until about 2040. In 2011 there were 114 million minorities in total, representing 36.6 per cent of the U.S. population, whereas in 2010, it stood at 36.1 per cent.
On the one hand the increasing share of ethnic minorities in the number of babies born in 2010-11 suggests that whites may become a minority a few years before 2040, the anti-immigration backlash in an increasing number of states combined with a drop in fertility rates among the Hispanic and Asian populations may run contrary to that effect.
This story was corrected on May 18, 2012 for factual error