Daniel de Vise, The Hill, August 7, 2023
Generation Z will be the last generation of Americans with a white majority, according to census data. The nation’s so-called majority minority arrived with Generation Alpha, those born since about 2010.
Barely two decades from now, around 2045, non-Hispanic white people will fall below half as a share of the overall U.S. population.
Generational data from the 2020 census shows the upward march of racial diversity by age group. Non-Hispanic white people make up 77 percent of the over age 75 population, 67 percent of the age 55-64 population, 55 percent of the 35-44 cohort, and barely half of the 18-24 age group. America’s children are only 47 percent non-Hispanic white, according to an analysis released this week by William Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
In the decades to come, that wave of diversity will wash across the generations, yielding an America with no single racial group that can claim a numerical majority.
By 2045, according to census projections, non-Hispanic white people will fall below 50 percent as a share of the American population. By 2050, non-Hispanic white people will represent less than 40 percent of the under-18 population.
Demographers warn, however, that those milestones vastly oversimplify the story of a diversifying America.
For a start, millions of Americans no longer embrace a single racial identity. How many? It’s hard to tell.
Getting back to those census projections: By 2045, more than 18 million people will claim two or more races. Subtract them from the total, and the population of non-Hispanic white people leaps from 49 percent to 52 percent of the remaining population, their majority status restored.
“Whites are going to be the largest group in this country for a long time,” said Richard Alba, distinguished professor emeritus in sociology at the City University of New York.
“In a sense, we’re forming a new kind of mainstream society here, which is going to be very diverse. But whites are going to be a big part of that. It’s not like they’re going to disappear and be supplanted.”
Today, multiracial Americans are the fastest-growing racial category in the census, a group projected to double in size between 2020 and 2050.
Alba and others said they believe even that number is a dramatic undercount.
People of mixed race “have relatively fluid identities,” Alba said. “They can think of themselves as white, they can think of themselves as minority, or they can think of themselves as mixed.”
Writing in The Atlantic in 2021, Alba, Myers and Morris Levy reasoned that the “myth” of a coming majority-minority America was both false and divisive.
“In the minds of many Americans,” they wrote, “this ethno-racial transition betokens political, cultural, and social upheaval, because a white majority has dominated the nation since its founding.”
Outside the racist fringe, the researchers say, most white Americans are receptive to the idea of expanding mixed-race families and a growing multiracial population.
“Despite what many people say, segregation has weakened,” Alba said. He notes that the average white American now lives in a neighborhood where roughly 1 in 3 residents identifies as a race other than white.
Frey favors a new set of categories, starting with the 2030 census. The separate “Hispanic” question would be cut. Instead, respondents could check any of several “origin” categories, and they could write in any number of specific racial or ethnic identities, such as Lebanese, Guatemalan, Nigerian or Navajo.