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White Births Are Minority for 1st Time in U.S. History

Our country, settled by white Europeans and riddled with the troubled racial legacy of slavery, bitter civil rights battles and an awful anti-immigration stance, has reached a new milestone for the first time in its 235-year-old history: White births in the United States are no longer in the majority.

According to US Census Bureau data, Black, Hispanic, Asian and mixed-race births accounted for 50.4% of births over a 12-month period to July 2011, marking a majority for the first time in US history. Whites still remain the majority of the population as a whole—with 63.4 percent of the population identifying as White—and Whites still maintain the largest single share of total births, at 49.6 percent. But the growth of the Hispanic population is chipping into the majority status of White births—a trend expected to continue as Hispanics, whose population sit “squarely within their peak fertility,” continues to rise, Pew Hispanic Center demographer Jeffrey  Passel told the New York Times.

The tipping point represents a “transformation from a mostly white baby boomer culture to the more globalised multi-ethnic country that we are becoming,” William Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer, told the New York Times.

While I applaud a truly diverse American population—a gigantic mosaic of races, cultures and ethnicities is absolutely delicious in my book—I do fear the longer-term implications, as pointed out in the Times’ story.

A more diverse young population forms the basis of a generational divide with the country’s elderly, a group that is largely white and grew up in a world that was too.

The contrast raises important policy questions. The United States has a spotty record educating minority youth; will older Americans balk at paying to educate a younger generation that looks less like themselves? And while the increasingly diverse young population is a potential engine of growth, will it become a burden if it is not properly educated?

It’s an interesting question, indeed. My hope and prayer is that as people of color continue to chip away at the U.S.’s white birth rate, the generation of African American, Hispanic, Asian and mixed-race babies being born now understand that we all win when we work together to uplift our country and the HUMANS who live in it, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, political affiliation and social status. But that seems less and less of the American way, huh? Heaven help us all.

—Denene Millner

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