Minority Report: New U.S. Data Shows More Ethnic Babies Than Whites

In an historic milestone, the U.S. for the first time has more minority or mixed-race kids than non-Hispanic whites.

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It’s a historic milestone in the ongoing U.S. demographic shift: according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were more black, Hispanic and other ethnic newborns than white births in 2011. The new figures make minorities the majority among America’s youth for the first time on record.

According to the data, just over half of all infants in the U.S. were minorities or of more than one race last year:  50.4 percent of babies younger than age 1, a jump from 49.5 percent in 2010. And 49.7 percent of children younger than age 5 belonged to a minority or were of mixed race, an increase from 49 percent the year before, according to the agency.

(MORE: Census Update: What the World Will Look like in 2050)

The nation’s growing diversity is a trend long established among demographers, but the latest census data illustrates how starkly it will change the face of America’s next generations. Most notably, Hispanic and Asian populations have swelled by more than 40 percent since 2000, compared to the 1.5 percent increase of non-Hispanic whites over the same time period. The white demographic is on its way to becoming a “majority minority”: it now only represents 63.4 percent of the U.S. population. “This is a fundamental tipping point signaling a change in our demographic structure for decades to come,” said William Frey, a demographer and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. The U.S. white population is projected to become the minority – an estimated 47 percent of the population – by 2050, according to a Pew Research Center forecast. A 2009 Census Bureau report predicts the shift will occur by 2042.

But an increase in minority newborns is not the only contributing factor to the shift; the non-Hispanic white population birth-to-death ratio is narrowing. Just 1,025 white children were born for every 1,000 who died last year compared to the 3,940 births to 1,000 deaths for all other minority groups, the Wall Street Journal reports. Minority women tend to start families younger and have more kids, with Hispanic women giving birth to an average of  2.4 babies compared to the 1.8 non-Hispanic white births, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

The rapidly changing demographic underscores a nationwide political debate on race, immigration policy, poverty and the future of the country’s economy, one that’s even more pointed in this election year. But while some experts believe ethnic groups will maintain cultural differences among the formerly predominant white population, other demographers anticipate minorities to blend into the proverbial “melting pot.”

“If you go back 100 years, groups that are now considered part of the majority white population were perceived as minorities,” Jeffry Passel, a senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center, told the Washington Post. “Over time, we’ll change the way we perceive these categories.”

MORE: 5 Most Surprising Findings From the 2010 Census