Renowned Demographer William H. Frey’s latest book, entitled Diversity Explosion; How New Racial Demographics are Remaking America (Brookings Press) is an eye-opening look into the future of this country. His projections of the ethnic components of our future population are firmly rooted in the dynamic demographic trends of the past two decades as reported in results of the 2010 United States Census.
The year 2011 marked the first time in American history that more minority babies than white babies were born in this country. Frey views this as a pivotal year leading to the strengthening of America through multiracial expansion. In 2010, white ethnics comprised 63.7 percent of the population, but the faster growth of other ethnic groups through births and immigration will result in formerly minority populations outnumbering the white population by 2050. He projects that this new infusion of young minorities will strengthen our aging labor force with vitality and innovation. He projects that the U.S. labor force-age population will grow 5 percent by 2030.
The change in racial composition is well underway. Most children will soon be racial minorities: Hispanics, Blacks, Asians and other non-white races, in addition to multi-racial households projected to be the largest group of all. Over the past 50 years, the possibility of a “minority white nation” would generate fear among many Americans. “Blockbusting”, “white flight”, “redline neighborhoods”, were all common terms of segregation. White Americans expressed fear of change, fear of losing privileged status, fear of unwanted groups in their neighborhoods. Although these fears still appear in sectors of our society, racial integration has become commonplace in most parts of the nation, especially among young people. But fear of change still persists and racial bigotry still remains an issue. However, Blacks are abandoning cities for the suburbs and schools continue to experience increasing racial integration. Frey projects that new generations of increasingly multi-racial population will dissipate traditional fears and America’s new diversity will be envied by other developed nations facing advanced aging and population loss. He believes that the classic American “melting pot” is being re-invented for a new era of multi-color integration.
Over the next 40 years, Hispanics, Asians and increasingly multi-racial groups will more than double in size. Already, they have contributed over three-quarters of the nation’s population growth during the 2001-2010 decade, a trend that will accelerate in the future. As the white population exhibits lower growth through declining immigration, reduced fertility, and also rapid aging, it will be surpassed by non-white groups. White population continues to decline in growth, a decline that appears almost certain to continue in future. In 2010, 22 of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas were minority white, up from just 14 in 2000 and 5 in 1990. The diversity explosion is well underway.
Clearly, this emergent transition to a more diverse society will foster major changes in the attitudes of individuals, the practices of institutions, and the nature of American politics. Frey points out that it is happening just in time, as the aging white population, dominated by the “baby-boom” population, begins to decline. It will re-charge needed manpower and brain power. It will re-populate aging city and suburban housing markets, assuming that the new middle income market will find satisfaction in neighborhoods and houses designed several decades in the past. We can assume that unforeseen changes will be developed to meet new emergent needs. New creativity will equip these descendants with the skills to meet the needs and preferences of an increasingly multi-racial society, a society that will spread to other parts of the globe.
Last night, I attended my grand-daughter’s graduation from a prestigious high school for the arts. The senior class was over half white, but its president was African-American. Of greater significance, the valedictorian was of Chinese extraction born in Beijing and entered this school in Grade 10. Over the next three years, she achieved straight As in all courses, completed 15 advanced courses, attained a 4.6 grade point average, was active in several extra-curricular organizations and worked 20 hours per week at a fast-food restaurant. Her brief address to the commencement audience was in relaxed American English in which she declined to offer advice to her “exceptionally bright classmates”. Clearly, her accomplishments proved sufficient advice. Another student of Asian origin was the runner-up valedictorian. I can only imagine that similar commencements featuring minority students are taking place across the country.
This graduation experience was a living example of William Frey’s data indicating that the diversity explosion is well underway. We all would be well-advised to heed his advice and embrace our emergent population diversity today.
David F. Parker, June 2015