America’s rapidly shifting demographic landscape promises vexing policy challenges and new political opportunities as candidates and parties vie for an ever-growing slice of the Latino electorate.
Last year, more U.S. babies were born to minorities than whites. Today, over 45% of kindergarten through 12th grade students are minorities, a figure projected to tip to a nonwhite majority in just five years, according to the Census Bureau.
By 2039, over one in four people ages 18-64 will be Latino. With over one in three Hispanic babies currently being born into poverty, America’s quickly changing racial composition portends important social welfare policy battles to come.
Latino immigrant Irma Guereque, 60, of Las Vegas captured the schism succinctly in a recent interview with the Associated Press. Guereque said she believes politicians are “only thinking of the rich, and not the poor, and that’s not right. We need opportunities for everyone,” she said in Spanish.
Next year, California will become a Latino plurality state. According to the Associated Press, California’s demography is a precursor of things to come as America’s racial and ethnic composition continues to change:
The District of Columbia, Hawaii, California, New Mexico and Texas have minority populations greater than 50 percent. By 2020, eight more states are projected to join the list: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey and New York. Latinos already outnumber whites in New Mexico; California will tip to a Latino plurality next year.
The white population, now at 197.8 million, is projected to peak at 200 million in 2024, before entering a steady decline in absolute numbers. Currently 63 percent of the U.S. population, the white share is expected to drop below 50 percent by 2043, when racial and ethnic minorities will collectively become a U.S. majority. Hispanics will drive most of the minority growth, due mostly to high birth rates, jumping in share from 17 percent to 26 percent.
Whether these changes will create a climate of unity or tension remains to be seen. As the AP reports, “nearly 40 percent of Latinos now resist a white identity on census forms, checking a box indicating ‘some other race’ to establish a Hispanic race identity.”
Important legal battles, like the Supreme Court decision on college affirmative action policies expected to be decided in late June, will also shape the contours of racial and ethnic relations in America.
While the policy implications of America’s changing demography remain unclear, one thing is certain: candidates and political parties will compete fiercely to win over the nation’s growing minority voting bloc.