Pearsall's Books

This blog is defunct! Check out my new music blog at

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Young America

I was fiddling around with the custom table feature at the US Census site the other day when, thinking about the Brooklyn-related demographics posts I have done recently, I decided to look at the composition of young America, and specifically the booming numbers of multiracial children being born. Everyone knows that America's white population is experiencing a fairly dramatic decline as a proportion of the overall population, partly as a result of continued high levels of immigration (which skew mostly non-white), an increase in multiracial children (the vast majority of whom have one white parent), and also of the fact that white fertility rates are lower than either black or Hispanic (using Hispanic as a distinct racial group for this purpose, which is kind of cheating, but whatever) fertility rates. Anyways, I felt like I should go into the data and have a check and draw up some charts for those curious.

Here, first off, are two pie graphs, comparing the 2000 census's results for the racial/ethnic breakdowns of the American population as a whole, which in 2000 stood at 290.8 million, and of the under-18 segment (as ever, clicking on any images in this post will take you to a larger version), which in 2000 was 72.3 million strong:

As you can see, there is a fairly sizeable difference, with a big drop proportionally in the white population between the overall and under-18 parts of the American population, a doubling in proportion of the multiracial population, and a nearly 50% increase proportionally in the presence of Hispanics. Also, the prevalence of Asians in the under-18 population is lower than in the population overall, which is presumably the result of fairly low Asian fertility rates, as well as the high Asian outmarriage rates that I blogged about earlier this month.

Here are four more specific charts from the 2000 Census data, breaking down racial proportions for several different age ranges in the under-18 group. In order, they are: under 5's, 5 to 9 year olds, 10 to 14 year olds, and 15 to 17 year olds.

As you can see, the decline in the white population is most dramatic among young Americans, as in the space of only ten years (the decade between when the 15-17 and under 5 contingents were born) the white proportion of the age grouping dropped from 63% down to 58%. And, since this data is now five years out of date, the under 5 cohort of children in America in 2005 are probably even more Hispanic (especially as, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, nearly a quarter of births are to immigrant women, who are mostly Hispanic), more multiracial, and less non-Hispanic white.

As demographer William H. Frey has pointed out, interracial couples account, as of the 2000 census, for 6.7% of all married couples in America. According to Frey, this now includes about 30% of married Asians and Hispanics, and about 13% of blacks, with the largest single grouping of married multiracial couples being whites and Hispanics. A pedant's note here, of course, in that Hispanic and Latino are American-invented terms to describe the multiplicity of peoples of Latin America, so that, in America, Hispanic can be used to describe everyone from the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Cameron Diaz to the, well, Afrodescente Sammy Sosa. But, since the majority of Hispanics in America are of Mexican descent, it is probably fair to say, in line with that country's demographics, that mestizos (those of mixed European and Amerindian descent) make up the largest single group within America's Hispanic population. I'd be curious to see outmarriage breakdowns by national origin, whether Cubans, most of the immigrant generation of which is white, marry out at a higher rate than, say, Dominicans, who, according to the 2000 census, were most likely to be 'some other race' (most likely mulatto).

Anyways, that was a bit of a digression from the matter at hand. Here is a table, taken from the 2000 census results, showing how the number of multiracial children being born in America has increased dramatically in recent decades. The numbers from left to right show, according to the US census, how many multiracial children there were in each year-age from 18 years old down to under a year old.

As you can see, the general trend is a big expansion in the number of multiracial children with, according to the census figures, there being 60% less multiracial 18 year-olds than infants in 2000. Of course, each year people at all age groups die, as a result of accidents, disease, and foul play, so there is some thinning of the ranks, but it is quite clear that there was a dramatic uptick in the birth of mixed-race children between 1982 (when the afore-mentioned 18 year-olds would have been born) and 2000. Indeed, as of the 2000 census, nearly 44% of multiracial Americans were under 18 (although part of that may be tied into older Americans of mixed parentage being far more likely to choose to place themself within one race, particular those of mixed white-black parentage self-identifying as black).

So, what of the future? Making demographic projections well into the future is a tricky business, and many have been wrong before, but, looking at the data, I can be reasonably confident that, among America's youngest generation, non-Hispanic whites will continue to shrink as a proportion of the overall population. I'd guess that by now, five years after the last census, the under 5's in America, who were all born after the 2000 census, are probably only 54-56% white, and that the majority barrier will, barring a radical change in immigration and fertility patterns in the near future, be breached in the next ten to twelve years. Correspondingly, I predict that the proportional growth of the multiracial population will outpace the growth of all other sectors and that multiracial children will probably account for at least ten percent of births within, say, 15 years (pedantic note again: of course, the majority of the Hispanic population in America is already multiracial, but I'm not counting that), and that Hispanics, propelled by the lowest age profile (save the multiracial grouping) and the highest fertility of any of these groups, will continue to rise as a proportion of children born, and will probably cross the 25% barrier in the next five to ten years. I will also predict that the black population will grow as a proportion of the overall American population, but rather slowly, and that, in the long-term, the Asian population will not grow by as much as many demographers expect, even with continued immigration from Asia, as the outmarriage rates are already so high and rising.

The biggest story here, of course, is the dramatic drop in the white proportion of the population that these figures seem to predict. When the proportion of children of unmixed European descent drops below 50% it will be the first time in, what, 300 years since that was the case on this portion of the planet? Whether you find these changes good, bad, or indifferent, it is clearly the case that we are living through what is the biggest single demographic change in this land since, really, the European settlement of what is today the United States.

Update, July 25th, 2005: If you're arriving here after being linked, you may be interested in this discussion of this post at GNXP.

|| RPH || 3:42 AM || |