Demography may not, as the famed French philosopher Auguste Comte once wrote, “be destiny,” but two new analyses, a demographic simulation of the school-age population of the United States and a projection of the racially-identified American Indian and Alaska Native population to 2050, make clear that rapid changes in the racial and ethnic composition of the population have and will continue to reshape the nation, with significant implications for education and the future of civil rights.
Conducted by a team of researchers working with the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA, the first new study, “The Changing Racial and Ethnic Composition of the School-Age Population in the U.S.,” details the rapid changes that have occurred in the wake of decades of sustained large scale immigration, outlining the changes schools and educators can anticipate over the next three decades.
Using a micro-simulation model that assumes the continuation of recent population dynamics, including fertility, mortality and migration trends, the research projects growing diversity across most places in the country, and a lessening of social and cultural differences between racial and ethnic groups.
The analysis also makes clear that reducing immigration in the future will not change these trends.
“Changes in immigration -- even if reduced to zero -- would not alter this future. The nation's racial and ethnic diversity is already ‘baked in,” said Jennifer Van Hook, lead author, professor of sociology and demography at Penn State, and Social Science Research Institute cofunded faculty member. “Most Hispanic and Asian children are U.S.-born citizens, and they will be the parents of an increasing share of America's children in the future.”
“This paper shows that we are on the path to much more diversity in much of the nation and leaders everywhere will need to observe and consider policies for dealing successfully in a more diverse context,” adds Gary Orfield, co-director of the UCLA Civil Rights Project. “These changes will have a significant impact and this research offers important information for thinking about the future of education and social, economic, and civil rights policies.”
The research projects:
- A majority-minority patchwork among American school-age youth. By 2050, non-Hispanic White children are projected to comprise 42% of the population age 5-17, Hispanics 29%, Blacks 17%, Asians and Pacific Islanders 7%, and children with multiracial or other identities 4%.
- Geographic spread of racial and ethnic heterogeneity. Racial and ethnic heterogeneity – or diversity -- is projected to increase the most in areas with lower levels of heterogeneity in 2020
- Reductions in the number and share of children of immigrants. The number of first- or second-generation school-age children is projected to decline between 2020 and 2050, dropping from 16.8 million to 11.4 million,
- Declines in non-English Home Language Use. The research projects substantial declines in the share of children speaking a non-English language at home, particularly among Hispanics (a 14 percentage-point drop from 58% to 44%) and Asian/PI children (a 7 percentage-point drop from 58% to 51%).
- Gains in Educational Attainment for Hispanics. Even in the absence of improvements in educational opportunities, Hispanic children are projected to experience gains in educational attainment.
- An Enduring Attainment Gap for Blacks If the existing trends continue there will be very little increase in college attainment for Black youth.
An executive summary and full report, “The Changing Racial and Ethnic Composition of the School-Age Population in the U.S.,” are available online. The report was co-authored by Van Hook; Alain Bélanger, professor of demography at the Quebec Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique in Montréal; Patrick Sabourin, a research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, and Nicholas Patoine Hamel, a demographer and statistician at United Nations ESCAP.
The report was commissioned and published by The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles, UCLA, as part of its ongoing research series, A Civil Rights Agenda for the Next Quarter Century, in commemoration of the Project’s 25thanniversary.