Demographers project that white people will become a minority in the United States in about 2045, dropping below 50 percent of the population.
That’s a quarter-century from now — still a long way away, right? Not if you focus on children. White children right now are on the eve of becoming a numerical minority. The US Census Bureau projects that, by the middle of 2020, nonwhite children will account for the majority of the nation’s 74 million children.
Children in 2018
The share of the US non-Hispanic white population has fallen since the mid-20th century. Between 2010 and 2018, the number of white children fell by 2.8 million, or 7.1 percent. In contrast, the number of nonwhite children grew by 6.1 percent.
Nonwhite children outnumber all white children under age 18 in 14 states — including Nevada, Hawaii, Georgia, and Maryland — and the District of Columbia. Nonwhite children currently outnumber white children ages 0 to 4 in these states and in Louisiana. In the next few years, the same will be true in North Carolina, Illinois, and Virginia, followed a little later by Connecticut and Oklahoma.
In the coming decades, the percentage of all white children will drop — from 49.8 percent in 2020 to 36.4 percent in 2060.
A growing trend
Why will white children become the numerical minority? We draw on the insights of demographer Kenneth Johnson and his colleagues to understand this trend.
First, the declining number of white children reflects the significant aging of the white population. White people in the United States have a median age of 43.6, much higher than those of all other racial or ethnic groups. Latinos, in particular, are much younger, with a median age of 29.5.
Slightly more than one-fifth of whites are age 65 and older, while that age group accounts for only about one-tenth of the nonwhite population. Indeed, today in the United States there are more white seniors than white children.
The older median age of the white population is mainly due to fewer births than deaths. Between July 2017 and July 2018, there were 0.88 white babies born in the United States for every one death of a white person. In the case of Latinos, the ratio was 5 births for every 1 death.
The white population also has lower fertility rates than most other racial and ethnic groups.
Even if white women increased their fertility levels, their actual numbers of births would not go up that much, because there is a shrinking number of white women of childbearing age. Only 41 percent of white women aged 15 and older are in the childbearing ages of 15 to 44, when most births occur, compared with 57 percent of nonwhite women.
What the future holds
In the coming decades, people of color will have an increasing presence in all US institutions, in higher education, the workforce, and the electorate.
Americans are already seeing the consequences of these demographic shifts in higher education. Between 2009 and 2017, the number of white undergraduate students in the United States dropped by 1.7 million, while the number of Latino undergraduates rose by 1.1 million.
In addition, US Bureau of Labor Statistics projections show that, between 2014 and 2024, the share of the civilian labor force who are white is declining, while the share of those who are nonwhite is estimated to rise. Furthermore, people of color will increasingly be part of the voter rolls and slates of political office seekers in the coming decades.
Despite these expected changes, one thing is certain. The white population is not going to disappear. The US Census Bureau projects that white people will still be the largest racial or ethnic group, accounting for 44.3 percent of the nation’s population in 2060 and outnumbering Latinos, the second largest group, by 67.9 million.
The reality is that whites will not dominate demographically as they have throughout most of US history, when they accounted for as much as 90 percent of the country’s population. Roughly speaking, the share of the US white population in 2060 will be the same as it is now in Las Vegas, about 44 percent.
Rogelio Sáenz is a professor of demography at The University of Texas at San Antonio. Dudley L. Poston Jr. is a professor of sociology at Texas A&M University. This article was originally published by The Conversation.