Hispanics, non-whites most rapidly growing demographics in America.
Immigration and high fertility are boosting the minority population while the number of white births lags behind, says a Pew report examining ethnic and racial demographics in America. For the first time, the Census Bureau reports, non-Hispanic whites now account for the minority of births in the U.S.
Minorities, defined by the Bureau as individuals who are not single-race non-Hispanic whites, comprised just over half (50.4 percent) of the U.S. population under 1 year old on July 1, 2011. Minorities also account for nearly half (49.7 percent) of children under age 5, and for more than one-third (36.6 percent) of the total population.
Non-whites in America are young—more than one-quarter (26.3 percent) of the population under age 1 is Hispanic, while other major non-Hispanic groups include whites (49.6 percent), blacks (13.7 percent), and Asians (4.4 percent).
As a result of the youth-driven minority population surge, long-term estimates, says Pew, mean that non-Hispanic whites will be a minority by 2050, at less than half the population (47 percent). Hispanics are projected to lead the growth among non-whites.
Contributing factors to the increasing diversity in the U.S. include an increase in interracial relationships, immigration, and higher fertility among younger, non-white females, Pew notes.
What do these rapidly shifting demographics mean for the nation? We are set to see great political and social changes which seem to already be taking place, says Sean D. Foreman, PhD, associate professor of political science at FL-based Barry University.
“It will no longer be clear who is part of the majority and who is viewed as part of a minority group,” he tells demodirt.com.
Areas like California, New York City and in southern Florida, Foreman notes, are already homes to great ethnic and racial diversity.
“It changes the whole dynamic of electoral politics as traditional minority groups become the majority of voters in a particular area,” he explains. “Barack Obama may have broken barriers as the first Black presidential nominee and campaign winner, but he will surely not be the last U.S. president from a minority group.”
As the Latino population is projected to be half of the country’s population by mid-century, Foreman maintains, “it will only be a matter of time before we have a president of Hispanic origin.”
No longer will Americans characterize black and Hispanic politicians and leaders as novelties.
“It will be commonplace to have Black and Hispanic leaders in all positions of government and industry and we will long surpass the days of the ‘first’ this or that,” he contends.
Congress will reflect our changing ethnic and racial demographics as well, becoming more representative of our nation.
“This has already been happening as more African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics get elected to Congress,” Foreman says.
Increased diversity and representation may be welcome changes, but racial tensions may also heighten, he warns.
“As we become more diverse we also have to beware that we don’t become more divided. People have to be reminded what ties us together as Americans and that is a belief in certain ideals of liberty and equality,” Foreman advises. “If we can begin to look beyond race and ethnicity as simply descriptions of identity and not prescriptions of ideology then we can work towards a common national agenda. But if people retreat to their own ethnic enclaves then we may end up with less commonality and more alienation and separation.”
One potential cause of tension may be the issue of language. “Debates over English-only laws may creep to the top of the agenda as communities not as comfortable with diversity wrestle with issues already present in some of the larger cities,” he notes.
However, as the Hispanic populations grows and seeks to become more politically active, Spanish language media will become more vital to keeping voters involved—and commerce will also be affected.
“Politicians will need to find ways to reach various different constituencies and companies are going to need to seek novel ways to reach new customers,” Foreman says.
Unfortunately, he adds, ethnic and racial tensions will continue to affect U.S. politics.
“Where there are biological and cultural differences some people will try to exploit them and to demagogue issues for electoral gain,” Foreman says. “The so-called Culture Wars will almost certainly see increased clashes over the use of language and stereotypes that are sure to creep into the political dialogue. It will be up to civic and political leaders to resist these battles and to help build a more positive future.”
Despite predicted obstacles, Foreman is optimistic that our nation will be able to handle the impact of these social and political changes as the younger generations, he says, seem more comfortable in our increasingly diverse society.
“For people who live and are educated in diverse schools and neighborhoods it is easier to embrace differences and use them as an advantage rather than to retreat and see them as a threat,” he concludes. “It is not likely that bigotry and racism will disappear completely but they should start to dissipate as the court of public opinion speaks with a more diverse set of voices.”
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