Nation & World

Whites will be minority group by 2042, Census predicts

WASHINGTON — In a few decades, all Americans will be minorities.

Non-Hispanic whites will drop below 50 percent of the population as early as 2042, according to U.S. Census Bureau projections to be released Thursday. That's about 10 years earlier than demographers previously had predicted, said Grayson Vincent, a demographer for the Census Bureau.

Here's what's expected:

  • Non-Hispanic whites, who are two-thirds of the population today, are older, dying off faster and producing fewer children than other groups, Vincent said. By 2050, they'll number 203 million in a nation of 439 million.
  • Hispanics are projected to triple by 2050, when they'll be nearly a third (133 million) of the population. Spurring Hispanic growth is the group's large natural increase — birth rate minus death rate — which Vincent attributed mainly to its youth and fertility. Immigration is an important but lesser factor, she said.
  • The black population is projected to increase by just 1 percentage point, from 14 percent this year to 15 percent (66 million) in 2050. At that point, Hispanics will outnumber blacks by two to one, the report said.
  • The Asian population will grow from 5 to 9 percent of the population (41 million) by 2050, according to the projections.
  • American Indians and Alaska Natives are projected to rise from1.6 percent to 2 percent (9 million) of the population.
  • All the changes will show up first and fastest among children, less than half of whom will be non-Hispanic whites by 2023.

    Policymakers need to start adapting now, demographers and race scholars said, especially in education.

    "It's a different kind of student body than we've known during the '50s and '60s and '70s, when a lot of our education policies were shaped," said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a Washington research center.

    "If we don't invest in educating and training African-American kids, immigrants and Latino kids, we won't have a middle class," said Mark Sawyer, the director of the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Politics at the University of California at Los Angeles. "We'll have a very, very poor disposable class that's largely black or brown."

    The face of America will look different, too.

    "I think the American complexion will be a multiplicity of complexions rather than one complexion," said Gilberto Cardenas, the director of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.

    The study predicts that the number of Americans who say they're biracial or multiracial will more than triple from 5 million to 16 million people by 2050.

    Some sociologists already have scrapped "minority" for terms such as "dominant" and "nondominant group" to discuss race and ethnicity, Sawyer said.

    Noting a recent poll in which half of whites opposed federal aid to minorities, John Koval, a colleague of Cardenas, joked that they should think twice.

    "Pretty soon they're going to be the minority," he said.

    Census Bureau forecasts