U.S. Moves Toward ‘Majority Minority’

Conor Dougherty, Wall Street Journal, June 10, 2010

Whites are on the verge of becoming a minority among newborn children in the U.S., marking a demographic shift that is already reshaping the nation’s politics and economy.

The Census reported Thursday that non-white minorities accounted for 48.6% of the children born in the U.S. between July 2008 and July 2009, gaining ground from 46.8% two years earlier even as immigration slowed amid the deepest recession in decades. {snip}

“The question is just when,” says Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. He guesses this demographic milestone will be crossed in the next few years, and could happen as early as 2011.

The numbers reflect the extent to which immigrants from places as far flung as Mexico, India and the Philippines are putting down roots in the U.S., bearing children who are changing the face of America even as they assimilate.

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A number of forces are pushing the U.S. toward a nation that is “majority minority.” White women are having fewer children. More minority women, especially Hispanics, are in their prime child-bearing years.

While the recession has slowed the transformation by making people of all races less willing to start families, births among non-whites still grew faster than those among non-whites. Among the Latino population, for example, there were roughly nine births for every one death, compared with a roughly one-to-one ratio for whites.

Charlotte, N.C., and surrounding Mecklenburg County offer a microcosm of the shifts occurring across the nation. In 1990, 96.6% of the county was white or black, with the balance made up mostly of Asians and Hispanics. Today, 83.7% of the city is white or black, and birth records show that the growth in other groups, in particular Hispanics, has turned Mecklenburg County’s youngest whites into a minority.

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The shifting mix has “changed our definition of diversity,” says Ann Clark, chief academic officer of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district.

The district, for example, used to put its teachers through training to overcome racial biases that usually cut along black-and-white lines. Now, the district focuses more on reaching kids who live in poverty or who don’t speak English at home. It has hired four full-time translators and started a program to educate teachers about poverty.

In 2006, the most recent year for which county-level birth data are available by race, 43% of the babies born in Mecklenburg County were non-Hispanic whites, according to an analysis of Centers for Disease Control data by Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. Among the “majority minority,” 30.1% were black, 21.2% Hispanic and 5.5% Asian.

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