For the first time in U.S. history, most of the nation’s babies are members of minority groups, according to new census figures that signal the dawn of an era in which whites no longer will be in the majority.
Population estimates show that 50.4 percent of children younger than 1 last year were Hispanic, black, Asian American or in other minority groups. That’s almost a full percentage point higher than the 49.5 percent of minority babies counted when the decennial census was taken in April 2010. Census Bureau demographers said the tipping point came three months later, in July….
“Eventually, when the economy returns, we’re going to get more immigrants, maybe not from Mexico but from other parts of the world,” (William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution) said. Without so many youthful immigrants, he added, the United States would look more like Japan, with its disproportionate share of elderly citizens.
“We were already seeing a declining youth population in large parts of the country,” Frey said. “Without immigrants, we’d be essentially youthless. We had a perfect storm. We got them all coming, younger immigrants having children, at a time when we really needed them.”
Sadly, of course, that’s not how some will see it. Rather than a nation built upon shared ideals that will be passed down from generation to generation regardless of ethnic background, in their eyes the United States is a nation that was created by and by rights ought to be defined by a particular ethnic group, their own. To them, an America in which that is no longer true is a diminished America.
But that is simply incorrect. In fact, the idea itself represents a diminished, constricted concept of this country. As Frey notes, immigration continues to serve the function it has always served, reinvigorating this country with fresh energy and ideas. It is not a threat to anything fundamental to our identity, it is a blessing, as it has been throughout our history.
At our best, we Americans have never defined this country by its skin tone or by the ethnic origin of its citizenry. We have and will continue to be something greater than that.
We’re all in this thing together — ain’t it grand? — and there’s no going back.
– Jay Bookman