Yesterday, the Census Bureau issued a press release announcing that for the first time the percentage of babies born to "minority" parents was greater than those born to "majority" parents. From the press release:
The U.S. Census Bureau today released a set of estimates showing that 50.4 percent of our nation's population younger than age 1 were minorities as of July 1, 2011. This is up from 49.5 percent from the 2010 Census taken April 1, 2010. A minority is anyone who is not single-race white and not Hispanic.
The population younger than age 5 was 49.7 percent minority in 2011, up from 49.0 percent in 2010. A population greater than 50 percent minority is considered "majority-minority."
These are the first set of population estimates by race, Hispanic origin, age and sex since the 2010 Census. They examine population change for these groups nationally, as well as within all states and counties, between Census Day (April 1, 2010) and July 1, 2011. Also released were population estimates for Puerto Rico and its municipios by age and sex.
There were 114 million minorities in 2011, or 36.6 percent of the U.S. population. In 2010, it stood at 36.1 percent.
There were five majority-minority states or equivalents in 2011: Hawaii (77.1 percent minority), the District of Columbia (64.7 percent), California (60.3 percent), New Mexico (59.8 percent) and Texas (55.2 percent). No other state had a minority population greater than 46.4 percent of the total.
More than 11 percent (348) of the nation's 3,143 counties were majority-minority as of July 1, 2011, with nine of these counties achieving this status since April 1, 2010. Maverick, Texas, had the largest share (96.8 percent) of its population in minority groups, followed by Webb, Texas (96.4 percent) and Wade Hampton Census Area, Alaska (96.2 percent).
The first question should be, who cares? The categories of the ethinc groups constituting what counts as minority and majority are arbitrarily defined by Federal law. In my earlier column, The Silly Panic Over a Minority White Nation, I pointed out that for many early 20th Century nativists lots of other ethnic groups did not qualify as "white." I specifically noted:
…the classic 1922 anti-immigration screed by Saturday Evening Post correspondent Kenneth Roberts, Why Europe Leaves Home: A True Account of the Reasons which Cause Central Europeans to Overrun America. "The American nation was founded and developed by the Nordic race," asserted Roberts. "If a few more million members of the Alpine, Mediterranean and Semitic races are poured among us, the result must inevitably be a hybrid race of people as worthless and futile as the good-for-nothing mongrels of Central America and Southeastern Europe."
Nativists like Roberts did not think that Italians, Jews, and Slavs, etc. were "white." So I did some rough calculations looking at percentages of Americans who are descended from those earlier "minority" groups, and I found:
…adding up all of the "non-white" groups, one finds that they and their descendants now total 184 million out of 313 million citizens, constituting nearly 60 percent of the country's current population. But how can that be? After all, the Census Bureau notes, "In the 2010 Census, just over one-third of the U.S. population reported their race and ethnicity as something other than non-Hispanic white alone (i.e. "minority")." The answer to this conundrum is that Italians, Poles, Jews, and the Irish are now considered "white."
It is this fact that renders silly and nearly meaningless the pronouncement that "whites" will be a minority in this country by 2050. By 2050, just as the earlier waves of Irish, Italian, Jewish, and Polish immigrants were assimilated, so too will today's Hispanic immigrants and their descendants be. For all intents and purposes, Hispanics will become as "white" as Irish, Italians, Jews, and Poles.
Meanwhile Roberts' worst fear of the "mongrelization" of the races in America is being realized. The rising intermarriage rate between members of the arbitrarily defined and federally recognized ethnic groups demonstrates ever-lessening concern by Americans about this issue. It is my hope and belief that Americans of whatever ancestry living in 2050 will look back and wonder why ever did anyone care about the ethnic makeup of the American population. America is an ideal, not a tribe.
In the 1950s the Census Bureau could have issued a press release proclaiming the advent of the new "majority minority" nation based on the growing percentage of births from Italian-Americans, Irish-Americans, Polish-Americans, etc. And yet, the Census Bureau's non-story made the front pages of nearly every major newspaper, yesterday. I guess tribalism sells.