The US Census Bureau has released a report that shows that the country's ethnic minorities now make up about half of the under-5 age group. Based on 2012 growth rates, whites will become a minority in the under-5 group for the first time in 2013/2014.
According to Thomas Mesenbourg, the Census Bureau's acting director: "The proportion of young children that is minority has been increasing since the 2010 Census and if this proportional growth continues, we expect that the crossover to majority-minority for this group will occur within the next couple of years."
AP reports that the new census estimates come a year after the Census Bureau reported that whites have become minorities among babies born in the US. Demographic figures show that minority groups, especially Asians and Hispanics, are growing faster than the white population. The growth, according to the Census Bureau, is fueled by high birth rates among Hispanics and high immigration among Asians.
The Census Bureau also projected that in five years, minorities will make up more than half of US children under 18. Extrapolating from current rates, the white population will begin declining in numbers as aging baby boomers die off.
Census Bureau figures reveal that Asians were the nation's fastest-growing ethnic group in 2012, with their population increasing by 530,000, or 2.9 percent, to 18.9 million. More than 60 percent of the growth came from international migration.
The Hispanic population grew by 2.2 percent, more than 1.1 million, to over 53 million in the same period, fueled mostly by increase in birth rates relative to death rates. The Hispanic population remains the second largest in the US behind non-Hispanic whites.
AP summarizes the main points of the census data as follows:
The population younger than 5 stood at 49.9 percent minority in 2012.
For the first time in more than a century, the number of deaths now exceeds births among white Americans, signalling white population decline soon to set in.
Nonwhite population increased by 1.9 percent to 116 million, or 37 percent of the U.S.
The fastest percentage growth is among multiracial Americans, followed by Asians and Hispanics. Non-Hispanic whites make up 63 percent of the U.S.; Hispanics, 17 percent; blacks, 12.3 percent; Asians, 5 percent; and multiracial Americans, 2.4 percent.
About 353 of the nation's 3,143 counties, or 11 percent, are now "majority-minority." Six of those counties tipped to that status last year: Mecklenburg, N.C.; Cherokee, Okla.; Texas, Okla.; Bell, Texas; Hockley, Texas; and Terrell, Texas.
In 2012, 13 states and the District of Columbia had an under-5 age population that was "majority-minority," up from five states in 2000. In 25 states and the District of Columbia, minorities now make up more than 40 percent of the under-5 group.
Among the under-5 age group, 22 percent live in poverty, typically in more rural states such as Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana. Black toddlers were most likely to be poor, at 41 percent, followed by Hispanics at 32 percent and whites at 13 percent. Asian toddlers had a poverty rate of 11 percent.AP notes that the projections have implications for government policy and spending. Already, some are suggesting that with the white population falling into minority, civil rights-era programs, such as affirmative action, may have to be reviewed to focus on income rather than ethnicity.
The Obama administration, as part of the consequences of the demographic projections, has proposed increased funding of pre-kindergarten education for poor families, most of whom fall in the fast growing demographic category.
According to AP, the gap between the rich and the poor has continued growing since 1970s, with the middle class bearing the brunt. Studies also show that the scholastic achievement gap, in both racial and economic class dimensions, persists and is noticeable very early, becoming very pronounced in SAT scores. This has prompted policy makers to suggest the need for remedies that target disadvantaged children very early in life.
AP reports that Timothy Smeeding, economics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said that data analysis shows that children's educational achievement depend on parents' educational and economic status, because better educated parents have fewer children and thus invest more in their children's education.
Demographers believe that the growing gap between the rich and poor is compounded by declining marriage and increasing incidence of single-motherhood in all racial and ethnic groups, the fastest growth being observed among whites. According to latest statistics, more than 40 percent of newborns in the US are born out of marriage to mostly low income parents.
Smeeding concluded: "The educational system is likely to be the most widely used and most acceptable policy tool we have for equalizing life chances. But it does not seem so far to achieve this goal. This specter of unequal opportunity may be the biggest negative social outcome of the continuing American inequality boom."