While we await the final 2020 census statistics for America’s racial and ethnic populations (expected later this summer), the recently released Census Bureau estimates have been compiled independently of the 2020 census.1 suggest something new: The 2010s could be the first decade in which the country’s white population recorded an absolute loss.
These new estimates show the annual changes in population by race and ethnicity between July 2010 and July 2020. They indicate that for every year since 2016, the country’s white population has declined. So all of the U.S. population growth from 2016 to 2020 comes from earnings of people of color.
These statistics extend and update a trend revealed in data released last year, and further underscore why the diversity profile of America’s population is growing rapidly. This is especially the case for the country’s younger population, which has experienced the greatest white population losses. The statistics also imply that as the white population ages and shrinks further, racial and ethnic diversity will be the hallmark demographic feature of younger generations in America, including Gen Z and onwards.
The late 2010s saw white population losses and racial minority gains
Previous population estimates have shown that the decade of the 2010s, especially its later years, was characterized by historically low population growth. This was the result of lower fertility, increased mortality and a slowdown in immigration from abroad. The first two trends are particularly characteristic of the country’s white population, which is aging faster than other groups.2
As shown in Figure 1, the annual white population losses over the four years between 2016-2017 and 2019-2020 were 129,000; 252,000; 290,000; and 482,000. Together, this loss of over a million whites outweighs the white population gains of the previous six years of the decade, leading to a very first decade of likely decline in the country’s white population when the 2020 census final results will be counted (Download Table A).
In contrast, race and non-white ethnic groups increased in size with each year of the decade and were responsible for all of the country’s population growth between 2016 and 2020. Latin Americans or Hispanics all dominated groups, with annual earnings of around 1 million per year. year. Asian Americans added between 300,000 and over 500,000 to their population each year, followed by Black Americans, people who identified with two or more races, and American Indian and Native Americans. Alaska.
As with the general population, the positive gains for each of these groups have declined somewhat in recent years. Despite this, the strong growth of people of color, as a group, reduced the share of whites of the total population from 63.8% to 59.7% between July 2010 and July 2020. The 2020 census will likely show, for the first time, that more than four in ten Americans identify with groups of color.
At the state level, 30 states lost their white population during the period 2016-2020 (Download Table B). The largest losses were recorded by California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where white emigration accentuated the decline. Among the 20 states that gained white populations during this period were those in the growing regions of the South and West, including Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, Colorado, Tennessee, Texas and Idaho.
In contrast, all states except one (Hawaii) posted gains from 2016 to 2020 for their combined populations of color. This has helped reduce or counter the overall losses in states that have experienced white population declines. Of the 30 states that lost their white population during this period, 18 reported overall gains. For example, the loss of 631,000 white residents in California was more than offset by gains of 850,000 people of color.
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The roles of natural decay, natural increase and immigration
The relative sizes of the number of births and deaths for different races and ethnic groups partly explain the difference in their respective population gains. Figure 3 shows how these different groups behaved in terms of natural increase (defined as the number of births minus the number of deaths) during the first nine years of the last decade.
Here, the white population is distinguished by its negative value on this measure, which means that it has experienced more deaths than births, or natural births. decrease (Download Table C). This reflects, in part, the older age structure of the white population relative to other groups, resulting in more deaths and fewer births. The latter is due to a proportionately lower share of its population of reproductive age as well as lower actual fertility rates among white women compared to the rest of the population.
The other demographic component that favors non-white groups over whites is immigration. During the period 2010 to 2019, Latino or Hispanic and Asian groups experienced significantly higher levels of immigration than whites, contributing to their overall growth. Nonetheless, it should be noted that among all non-white groups except Asian Americans, immigration contributes less to their growth than natural increase. Among Latinos or Hispanics, the gains from natural increase were more than three times those from immigration.
Immigration and natural increase levels have been generally lower over the last four years of the decade than before due to more restrictive immigration, declining fertility and increasing numbers. deaths, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic has taken hold. These factors contributed to increasingly smaller gains for each non-white group and larger white population losses. Yet, especially in recent years, the nation has depended on people of color, particularly Latin Americans, Hispanics, and Asians, for their contributions to global population growth.
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People of color are increasingly common among young people.
Focusing on 2016 to 2020 – the period when the loss of the white population began to emerge – it is helpful to look at the country’s racial and ethnic demographic development across broad age groups.
Figure 4 shows that the white population loss during this period is highly skewed among the youngest and most active age groups in the country (under 25 and 25 to 59). It has to do with the continued aging of the baby boomer population in the oldest category (60 years and over). In fact, the rise of white baby boomers in the 60 and over age group is largely responsible for this category which has carved out the lion’s share of the country’s population gain during this period. period (Download table D).
In contrast, the two youngest age groups experienced white population losses. In fact, the under-25 age group saw an overall decline in population as the losses of whites were not stymied by people of color. (Within the category of people of color, there were also small losses among African Americans, American Indians, and Native Alaskans.) The 25 to 59 age group was recorded a population gain during this period, but only because the colored people combined the gains were greater than the white losses.
The different age structures of each group underlie this dynamic. All color groups have lower median ages than White Americans, some reflecting waves of recent immigrants who, along with their children, help the groups maintain a younger age profile. And, as noted above, the advanced age profile of White Americans led the group to exhibit a natural decrease. It is also true that as mixed couples continue to increase, their children will identify with the âtwo or more racesâ category.
For these reasons, the younger age groups experience the greatest increase in diversity. The new estimates show that between 2010 and 2020, the share of whites in the population of children under 18 will increase from 53.7% to 49.6% (see Figure 5). The 2020 census could be the first to show that more than half of American children identify as people of color.
It will also accentuate generational differences in racial-ethnic profiles. Still using census estimates, cohorts will range from less than 30% of people of color (for baby boomers and their elders) to people of color with shares of 45.1%, 48.7% and 51 , 3% among millennials, Gen Z and post-generations. Z, respectively (see Figure 6).
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The 2020 Census and America’s Demographic Fate
As I wrote in my book “Explosion of Diversity”, there is no doubt that racial and ethnic diversity is poised to play an important role in contributing to the demographic and economic well-being of the nation. It is already clear from these new population estimates that different color groups have been and will continue to be responsible for sustaining the overall population growth of the United States. This is especially the case for its young people and its young workforce, who represent the future of the nation.
In addition, the small loss of the white population does not need to be viewed in a negative light. As the younger generations representing all racial and ethnic backgrounds grow and interact with each other, the sharp racial lines between white, Latino or Hispanic, black, Asian American and other groups should begin to dissipate, at least. a demographic point of view. Already in 2015, nearly one in six new marriages were mixed, a factor that will lead to an even greater number of people who identify with more than one racial and cultural background.
The soon-to-be-released 2020 census will show even more clearly where the country’s demographic fate lies, once again illustrating a patchwork of different races, origins and cultures that are scattered across all parts of the country.
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