Racial and ethnic minorities now surpass non-Hispanic whites as the largest group of American children under 5 years old, the Census Bureau said Thursday.
The reversal in 2014 marked a milestone in a trend toward a more diverse U.S. that's projected to continue. Births outnumbered deaths for all ethnic and racial groups last year except for non-Hispanic whites, the new Census data show. A report earlier this year projected that by 2044, today's majority white population will be the minority.
The demographic rise of minorities comes at a time when heightened racial tensions make headlines from St. Louis to Charleston, South Carolina, and as minorities lag in education, earnings and labor market outcomes. In the first quarter, blacks over the age of 25 made 78 cents for every dollar a white worker made, based on median weekly earnings data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hispanic people were even further behind, at 70 cents.
That disadvantage could grow more important to the U.S. economy, because today's ethnic and racial minorities will form the cornerstone of tomorrow's labor market. In the decade through 2022, Hispanics will make up about 80 percent of growth in the workforce, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics projections.
If the labor market characteristics of older minorities hold for their children, the rise of the demographic groups could create training challenges. As of 2014, 32 percent of the U.S. population over the age of 25 had a college degree or higher. That share is much lower for Hispanic or Latino adults, at 16 percent. That said, education rates among the group are on the rise, climbing from 11 percent in 2000, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
The changing demographic tides also carry implications that extend beyond the labor market: Minority households may shop differently than their majority counterparts, for instance, and have historically lower home ownership rates.
The growing share of Hispanics in particular could also affect U.S. politics, especially in competitive states such as Florida. Both Democratic and Republican parties are targeting this expanding voter bloc in the 2016 election.
It's too early to tell how all of the shifts will play into the nation's economic and social future, but if demographics are destiny, the U.S. is fated to change.