A No Majority Future

I came across a Brookings Institute interactive map of a racial breakdown by age cohort (via Fred Shelley). It lets you look at each county or metropolitan area. It gives the total racial breakdown for the population and then shows it for each age bracket.

In my state of Iowa, it shows the data for both the county I live in (Johnson) and the metropolitan area I live in (Iowa City). They are basically the same thing and so the data is approximately the same. With the two youngest age groups (0-4 and 5-19 years old), the population here is already more than a quarter minority. For comparison, there are only a few percentage of minorities in the 80+ demographic.

The local media has obsessed about blacks. However, the largest segment and the fastest growth is seen with Hispanics. There is a definite increase of blacks along with an increase of Asians (and those who identify as 2 or more races), but the Hispanic population is nearly equal to the combined populations of blacks and Asians.

Still, it’s not too unevenly divided around here in terms of minorities. What is interesting is that both blacks and Asians get more attention as being somehow foreign. The former is presumably from the distant land of Chicago and the latter are largely students from other countries (at least in the case of the Asians, the perception of their being foreign largely matches the reality, as most are only living here temporarily). The local population, for some reason, seems less concerned and bothered by the Hispanic population. This reinforces my sense that Hispanics might find it an easier pathway into white assimilation, which would throw off the demographic numbers as many Hispanics might entirely stop identifying as Hispanic and simply identify as white.

The Hispanic growth and dispersal is increasingly typical (here is another good interactive map). Hispanics are the fastest growing racial/ethnic population in the US, and this is most starkly seen in the traditionally majority white Heartland (especially in the rural areas and in the most rural states) where Hispanics are drawn to the agricultural work and meatpacking plants. Many of these rural farming states tend to have smaller populations and so the increase of Hispanics is much more noticeable in terms of per capita.

Iowa is a typical state where the white population is aging, as younger whites move elsewhere. At the same time, young Hispanic families are moving in. This is how they will have a disproportionate influence much more quickly than otherwise would have happened. Hispanics aren’t just a big part of the future for the Southwest, but for many diverse places all across the country.

What caught my attention more than anything, though, was just the growing minority populations in general. I’ve been long fascinated by the emerging minority-majority. However, the name is a bit misleading. It’s just another way of saying there won’t be any majority at all.

The Brookings’ map that is in the first link is based on data used for a newly published book, Diversity Explosion by William H. Frey. He explains how significant of a change this is (Kindle Locations 137-141):

“The shift toward “no majority” communities is already taking place as the constellation of racial minorities expands. In 2010, 22 of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas were minority white, up from just 14 in 2000 and 5 in 1990. Sometime after 2040 , there will be no racial majority in the country. This is hardly the America that large numbers of today’s older and middle-aged adults grew up with in their neighborhoods, workplaces, and civic lives. One implication of these shifts will be larger multiracial populations as multiracial marriages become far more commonplace.”

We’ll all be minorities before too long, assuming we don’t die in the next couple of decades. The youngest kids are already a minority-majority, but it will take a while for that generation to be representative of the entire country. Fairly large parts of the country, as Frey explains, are already majority-minority (here is a map of counties over all and another map showing which minorities for which counties). But there is a big difference between majority-minority and minority-majority, although I suspect many people mix the two up, especially white people fearing that one particular group will become the new majority in the country, which if it does eventually happen it won’t be any time soon.

* Bonus factoid: “As of 2010, Anchorage’s Mountain View neighborhood is the most diverse census tract in the entire U.S. In fact, three of the top 10 most diverse are in Anchorage, followed mostly by a handful from the borough of Queens in New York.”