Of U.S. Children Under 5, Nearly Half Are Minorities

D’Vera Cohn and Tara Bahrampour, Washington Post, May 10, 2006

Nearly half of the nation’s children under 5 are racial or ethnic minorities, and the percentage is increasing mainly because the Hispanic population is growing so rapidly, according to a census report released today.

Hispanics are the nation’s largest and fastest-growing minority group. They accounted for 49 percent of the country’s growth from 2004 to 2005, the report shows. And the increase in young children is largely a Hispanic story, driving 70 percent of the growth in children younger than 5. Forty-five percent of U.S. children younger than 5 are minorities.

The new numbers offer a preview of demographic shifts to come, with broad implications for the nation’s schools, workforce and Social Security.

One in three Americans is now a member of a minority group, a share that is bound to rise, because the non-Hispanic white population is older and growing much more slowly. The country already is engaged in a national debate about how government should respond to growing immigration, legal and illegal.

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William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution, predicted that the United States will have “a multicultural population that will probably be more tolerant, accommodating to other races and more able to succeed in a global economy.”

There could be increased competition for money and power, he added: “The older, predominantly white baby-boom generations will need to accommodate younger, multiethnic young adults and child populations in civic life, political decisions and sharing of government resources” in places such as the Washington suburbs.

In some suburban communities, government officials face a cultural generation gap as they weigh demands from older white residents for senior citizen centers, transportation and other aid against requests from younger, mainly minority residents for translation assistance, preschools and other services.

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ATLANTA—Hispanic births are skyrocketing in the Southeast, where an increase of at least 40 percent was recorded in five states between 2000 and 2003, according to a new government report.

Among the states with the largest increases were Kentucky (80 percent), South Carolina (62 percent), Alabama (53 percent), Tennessee (53 percent) and Arkansas (40 percent), the report found.

The report, from the National Center for Health Statistics, is called the first state-by-state breakdown of birth and fertility rates in the U.S. Hispanic population.

U.S. births for non-Hispanic whites decreased 10 percent between 1990 and 2000, and 2 percent between 2000 and 2003, the report showed. Births for blacks declined 9 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

In contrast, births for Hispanic women jumped 37 percent between 1990 and 2000, and another 12 percent between 2000 and 2003.

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