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Southern Religion

Minority young children become the majority [not extinct]

Straightforward demographics trump shrill cries that “Black Children Are An Endangered Species.” Black, brown, red and yellow children are apparently the majority of their age group now, just as current minority groups are projected to become the summary majority in 2042.

Minority children have been moving toward majority status for some time, not toward extinction. In 2009, 48 percent of the children born in the United States were members of minority groups. And growth continued so that, according to projections from the latest U.S. Census data by researchers at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), the tipping point passed.

Kenneth Johnson, UNH professor of sociology and senior demographer at the UNH Carsey Institute, and Daniel Lichter, Ferris Family Professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University, said [.pdf] in a paper published Wednesday in the Journal Population and Development Review:

We do not need to rely on Census projections or wait until 2042 to observe the putative demographic implications of growing racial and ethnic diversity in American society. Our research documents the demographic forces that have placed today’s young people in the vanguard of America’s new racial and ethnic diversity. The seeds of diversity are being sown today by immigration and high fertility, which are revealed in growing racial and ethnic diversity among America’s children and youth. In many parts of the United States, the future is now.

Why? Most women of childbearing age are members of minority groups:

A key reason for the growing child diversity is the changing mix of women in their prime child-bearing years (20-39 years old). From 1990 to 2008, the number of non-Hispanic white women in prime child-bearing years decreased 19 percent while the number of minority women increased 40 percent. In 1990, 63 percent of all births were to non-Hispanic white women; in 2008, 52 percent were to non-Hispanic white women.

It is irresponsible to artificially elevate racial tensions in any context, but it is especially so in times of demographic transition when there is already tension over the costs of transition. The demographers speak directly to the most immediate concern when they write [.pdf]:

It has been more than 25 years since Samuel Preston (1984) argued that America’s declining fertility rates, increasing longevity, and consequent aging of the population have had the effect of shifting the nation’s resources from the young to the old. The social and economic realities of children had deteriorated while the circumstances of the elderly had improved. Our results raise an additional demographic complication for children (Hernandez 1993). That is, will America’s older, largely white population—through the ballot box and collective self-interest—support young people who are now much different culturally from themselves and their own children? Will they vote, for example, to raise taxes for schools that serve young people of ethnic backgrounds different from theirs? Preston (1984: 448) worried that “Americans have never had any strong sense of collective responsibility for other people’s children, only private responsibility for their own.” This may be especially true if “other people’s children” are largely minority, disproportionately poor, and live in separate communities. In fact, Poterba (1997) found that the presence of large fractions of elderly residents in a jurisdiction was associated with significantly lower per-child educational spending, especially if the elderly and children were of different races.

For the sake of the young who are alive, and for the sake of those yet to be born, this is a time to build more bridges.

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March 11, 2010 Posted by | History, Politics | , , , , | 5 Comments