In 2014, racial and ethnic minority babies became the statistical majority of U.S. children under 1 year of age. Coming it at 50.2%, these babies overtook the “non-Hispanic whites” category to initiate a new demographic trend: the U.S. will soon have no racial or ethnic group as a 50% or higher majority. Some experts call this the “minority-majority” demographic trend in which all babies of non-white races combined outnumber white babies for the first time in American history. Right now, this pattern only shows up in children under one year of age, but it will apply to the U.S. population as a whole within a few decades.
As of 2015, this trend is holding steady for all children under 5 years of age, where 50.3% of these children are minorities. In contrast, of those ages 60 and over, minorities only make up 18.5% to 26.8% of the population, depending on age bracket.
Statisticians at the Census Bureau estimate that non-Hispanic whites of all ages will cease being a 50%+ majority by the year 2044. Pew Research Center projects the same occurrence, though they pin the year at 2055. Either way, we are about about three to four decades from a historic demographic shift.
Of course, this probably comes as no surprise to you if you live in one of the four states that already shows a “minority-majority” demographic: “Hawaii (77.0 percent minority population), the District of Columbia (64.2 percent), California (61.5 percent), New Mexico (61.1 percent) and Texas (56.5 percent).
Breaking it Down
Let’s look more closely at the number of babies born in the U.S. by race. According to U.S. Census Bureau information, the numbers break down roughly as follows:
- Non-Hispanic White: 50%
- Hispanic: 25%
- Black: 16%
- Asian: 3%
- Other: 6%
Understanding the Background
These numbers are the result of a few key changes in recent U.S. history. Between 1970 and 2000, the number of immigrants entering the United States rose dramatically. According to Pew, In fact, 55% of the U.S. population growth is attributable to immigrants who entered between 1965 and 2015, which added 72 million people to the census counts.
This is thanks to the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act that revolutionized the country’s system for accepting immigrants. Prior to this law, the U.S. focused heavily on quotas that preferred certain national origins, specifically European immigrants. After the Immigration and Nationality Act was passed, preference was given to reunifying families and welcoming skilled immigrants. Ever since, over half of immigrants to the U.S. have come from Latin America, 25% from Asia and many more from Africa and the Middle East.
Interestingly, Pew Research ran a study of the demographics that likely would have occurred if the Immigration and Nationality Act had never passed. They concluded that today’s demographics would have been 75% white, 14% black, 1% Asian and just 8% Hispanic. In actuality, the numbers are 61% non-Hispanic white, 12% black, 18% Hispanic (over two times higher), 6% Asian (six times higher) and 3% native.
Recent immigration has also played a role. Between 2000 and 2010, the national immigrant population grew just 28%, but it had doubled between 1990 and 2010. In 2010, the immigrant population was 40 million, though much of this population increase was off-set by deaths and emigration, i.e., U.S. citizens leaving the country. As a share of the demographics, this means that in 2016, first generation immigrants and their children number 84.3 million and accounted for 27% of the U.S. population.
What it means: The United States would be half as populous and much less diverse of a country if not for the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act.
How Fertility Rates Affect U.S. Demographics
The fertility rate is a measure of how many children a specific population is having. It can be shown as a number per 1,000 people, a number per 1,000 women, or an average of family size.
One way to look at this is from a study that measures how many children a woman in her early 40s has. This number has changed from 1988 to 1994 and 2014, but let’s just look at the most recent numbers.
Across all races, the most common number of children was two. In 2014, the highest percentage of white women in their 40s had two children (44%) followed by a tie for one and three children (23%) and finally four children or more (11%).
That same year, 35% of black women had two children, followed by 25% having one, 22% having three and 18% having four or more.
When it came to Hispanic women (which includes both white Hispanics and non-white Hispanics), 33% had two children followed by 31% having three children, 20% having four or more and 17% having an only child.
Finally, the study looked at Asian women in their 40s. A majority (50%) had two children, 22% had an only child, while 18% had three and only 10%—the lowest of all four races measured—had four or more.
In fact, a 2013 analysis from the University of Nebraska shows that the fertility rate for Hispanics and black non-Hispanics was the lowest in 25 years. This means the “fertility gap,” which used to show a disparity in fertility rates between whites (on the lower end) and Hispanics and blacks (on the higher end), is narrowing at a rapid pace.
What it means: Most women, regardless of race, are having two children. When compared to the same studies from 1988, women of every race are less likely to have four or more children. This follows a general United States trend known as the “Baby Bust,” a noteworthy decrease in the national fertility rate.
The Future of Babies Born in the U.S. by Race
With each generation, this shift in U.S. demographics from a white majority to a “minority-majority” will become more pronounced. As of 2015, the immigration numbers show the top countries for first generation immigrants as follows:
- India (179,800 immigrants in 2015)
- China (143,200)
- Mexico (139,400)
- Philippines (47,500)
- Canada (46,800)
India and China are new contenders for the top spot in national origin of U.S. immigrants. The rate of Mexican immigration, previously number one, has actually gone down in recent years though total numbers were slightly increased. In 2000, Mexican immigrants made up 29.5% of all immigrants to the U.S. In 2015, this number was down to 27%. Many experts attribute this decline in Mexican immigration rates to the U.S. economic recession that began in 2007-2008.
The median age for all immigrants is 43.9 years old, with fewer than 1 percent being under the age of 5. As these first generation immigrants continue to add diversity to the racial make-up of the U.S., the race demographics of babies born will continue to change.
As of 2015, 45% of immigrants reported having Hispanic or Latino origins, while 47% reported themselves as white. 27% reported as Asian, 9% as black, and 15% as “other races.”
These immigrants are tending to move to the same states, too. California, Texas, New York, Florida and New Jersey have absorbed the most immigrants.
What it means: Many people assume the increase in diversity among U.S. born babies will be largely Hispanic, but coming generations will be heavily influenced by today’s immigration from India and China.
Looking at U.S. babies born by race tells us a lot about our future, but so does the influence of current immigration patterns. Experts debate when it will happen, but there’s little doubt that with the current demographics and fertility rates, the U.S. will be a minority-majority country by 2060.