Ethnic minorities now make up the majority of babies in the United States, official figures revealed today.
It is the first time that this has been the case and the change reflects a growing age divide between mostly white, older Americans and predominantly minority youths that could reshape government policies.
Preliminary census estimates also show the share of African-American households headed by women–made up of mostly single mothers–now exceeds African-American households with married couples, a sign of declining U.S. marriages overall but also continuing challenges for black youths without involved fathers.
The findings, based on the latest government data, offer a preview of final 2010 census results being released this summer that provide detailed breakdowns by age, race and householder relationships such as same-sex couples.
Demographers say the numbers provide the clearest confirmation yet of a changing social order, one in which racial and ethnic minorities will become the U.S. majority by the middle of the century.
Currently, non-Hispanic whites make up just under half of all three-year-olds, which is the youngest age group shown in the Census Bureau’s October 2009 annual survey, its most recent.
In 1990, more than 60 per cent of children in that age group were white.
The preliminary figures are based on an analysis of the Current Population Survey as well as the 2009 American Community Survey, which sampled three million U.S. households to determine that whites made up 51 per cent of babies younger than two.
After taking into account a larger-than-expected jump in the minority child population in the 2010 census, the share of white babies falls below 50 per cent.
By contrast, whites make up the vast majority of older Americans–80 per cent of the over 65s and roughly 73 per cent of people aged 45-64.
Kenneth Johnson, a sociology professor and senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire, noted that much of the race change is being driven by increases in younger Hispanic women having more children than white women, who have lower birth rates and as a group are moving beyond their prime childbearing years.
The numbers come amid public debate over hotly contested federal and state issues, from immigration and gay marriage to the rising cost of government benefits, that are resonating in different ways by region and demographics.
Alabama became the latest state this month to pass a wide-ranging anti-immigration law, which in part requires schools to report students’ immigration status to state authorities.
That follows tough immigration measures passed in similarly Republican-leaning states such as Georgia, Arizona and South Carolina.
But governors in Massachusetts, New York and Illinois, which long have been home to numerous immigrants, have opted out of the federal Secure Communities programme that aims to deport dangerous criminals, saying it has made illegal immigrants afraid of reporting crimes to police. California may soon opt out as well.
While the number of black single mothers has been gradually declining, overall marriages among blacks are decreasing faster.
That reflects a broader U.S. trend of declining marriage rates as well as increases in non-family households made up of people living alone, or with unmarried partners or other non-relatives.
Female-headed households make up a 19 per cent share among Hispanics and 9 per cent each for whites and Asians.
Meanwhile, figures released last month revealed that the migration of young Hispanic families has fuelled the age divide between regions of America.
Young Hispanic migrant families are increasingly moving into western and southern states, while older baby boomers stay put further north.
The population in the South and West is now dramatically younger than in the Northeast, and there is a gap of 3.9 years between the youngest and oldest regions of the country, according to figures released by the Census Bureau.
In all, 12 of the 14 states with median ages of 36 or younger are located in the South and West, including California, Colorado and Georgia, whereas 13 of the 20 states with a median age of 38 or higher are in the Midwest and Northeast, including New Jersey, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
Younger people are increasingly leaving these areas–particularly industrial cities in the Midwest like Detroit which have been badly affected by the recession–to find work in the Sun Belt.
But ageing is being slowed in the South and West, as young Hispanic migrants settle and have families, while others continue to move in.
Another intriguing recent study has revealed that college-educated immigrants now outnumber those entering the country with just a high school degree–and the variation is much bigger in urban areas.
They outnumber those educated at high school by 25 per cent in 44 major American cities–and 30 per cent of working-age immigrants now have a college degree, compared to 19 per cent in 1980.
An increase in demand from U.S. employers has seen more college-educated immigrants arriving in the U.S. over the past decade than immigrants without high school education, reported Yahoo News.
Only 28 per cent of U.S. immigrants are without a high school diploma and half of skilled immigrants are overqualified for their jobs, a report by the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C. said.