New 2011 census estimates show that for the first time, racial and ethnic minorities make up more than half of the children born in the U.S. For these newborns of America’s first “majority minority” generation, and for all Americans under 50, Hispanics are the second-largest population group after whites of European descent (Wall Street Journal).
These findings come amidst data from the Pew Hispanic Center, which show that net immigration from Mexico has stopped, or possibly reversed. “The current congressional and Supreme Court interest in reducing immigration – and the concerns especially about low-skilled and undocumented Hispanic immigration – represents issues that could well be behind us,” notes William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution who analyzed the census data, in the Huffington Post.
In fact, census data reveal that immigration is not the main driving force behind America’s growing diversity. Data for 2010 show Hispanic women give birth to 2.4 babies on average compared to 1.8 babies for non-Hispanic whites, and minority women are younger on average, so more of them are of childbearing age (Wall Street Journal). In addition, as Princeton professor and director of the Mexican Migration Project Doug Massey notes in Reuters, “net zero migration doesn’t just mean undocumented migrants are staying in Mexico; it also means those already here aren’t going home…” The census has forecast that non-Hispanic whites will be outnumbered in the United States by 2042.
This demographic shift has implications for United States’ policy, particularly in the area of education.
A substantial percentage of minority children, especially those with Latin American origins, are falling behind in school. Evidence from the Future of Children’s volume on Immigrant Children shows that three policy reforms – increased attendance in quality preschool, improved instruction in English, and increased attendance in postsecondary education – would lift their wellbeing as adults and increase their economic and social contributions in American society.
“Today’s minority youth are coming of age in an aging society… which will depend increasingly on the productivity of younger workers,” write Immigrant Children issue editors Marta Tienda of Princeton and Ron Haskins of Brookings. “At a critical juncture in its history, the United States has an opportunity to invest in [minority] youth and enable them to contribute to national prosperity.”
For more information on the country’s changing demographics, immigrant children, and education reform, see the Future of Children volumes on Fragile Families, Immigrant Children, Transition to Adulthood, and America’s High Schools.