Thursday, June 21, 2018

Whither White People?

Non-Hispanic whites will continue to be the majority of the country for a considerable time. But how long is a matter of some debate, since a number of factors could affect the rate at which minorities increase and whites decline. Sabrina Tavernise had a good article in the New York Times today running down some recent relevant data.
"Deaths now outnumber births among white people in more than half the states in the country, demographers have found, signaling what could be a faster-than-expected transition to a future in which whites are no longer a majority of the American population.
The Census Bureau has projected that whites could drop below 50 percent of the population around 2045, a relatively slow-moving change that has been years in the making. But a new report this week found that whites are dying faster than they are being born now in 26 states, up from 17 just two years earlier, and demographers say that shift might come even sooner.
“It’s happening a lot faster than we thought,” said Rogelio Sáenz, a demographer at the University of Texas at San Antonio and a co-author of the report. It examines the period from 1999 to 2016 using data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the federal agency that tracks births and deaths. He said he was so surprised at the finding that at first he thought it was a mistake.
The pattern first started nearly two decades ago in a handful of states with aging white populations like Pennsylvania and West Virginia. But fertility rates dropped drastically after the Great Recession and mortality rates for whites who are not of Hispanic origin have been rising, driven partly by drug overdoses. That has put demographic change on a faster track. The list of states where white deaths outnumber births now includes North Carolina and Ohio."
Of course, this trend has political implications, though those who read automatic Democratic dominance into these figures should take a deep breath and consider all the moving parts here. If I may quote Tavernise quoting me:
"Despite demographic change, whites — and in particular less educated whites — will still make up the bulk of eligible voters in the country for a while. Whites without a bachelor’s degree will make up 44 percent of eligible voters in 2020, said Ruy Teixeira, a political scientist who did a broad study of demography and politics this spring. College-educated whites will be about 23 percent. Mr. Teixeira said Republicans could continue to win presidential elections and lose the popular vote through 2036 if they did even better among whites who had not graduated from college, while other voting patterns held steady.
That is giving politicians incentives to emphasize issues, like immigration and race, where there are the biggest differences in views by education. A class divide has been growing for years among whites. In 1988, there was no difference between whites with a college degree and those without, Mr. Teixeira said. Both voted for George Bush over Michael Dukakis by a 20-point margin. By 2016, Mrs. Clinton lost noncollege whites by 31 points, double Mr. Obama’s 2012 loss, while carrying college-educated whites by seven points.
“This is a real sea change,” Mr. Teixeira said. “This is why Republicans have been able to weather these demographic changes, entirely on the backs of white noncollege voters.”
So, consider and absorb the data but be careful what you read into it. The world is a complicated place and the astute progressive avoids easy answers.
About this article
The pattern first started more than a decade ago. But lagging fertility rates and rising white mortality rates have sped demographic change.

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