Washington, D.C.– Demographers sifting through new population counts released on Thursday by the Census Bureau say the data bring a pattern into sharper focus: Young Americans are far less white than older generations, a shift that demographers say creates a culture gap with far-reaching political and social consequences.
Growth in the number of white youths slowed sharply in the 1990s, up by just 1 percent in the decade, as the number of white women of childbearing age fell, according to Kenneth M. Johnson, a demographer at the University of New Hampshire.
More recently, it has dipped into a decline. The number of whites under the age of 20 fell by 6 percent between 2000 and 2008, Mr. Johnson said, citing countrywide census estimates.
Instead, growth has come from minorities, particularly Hispanics, as more Latino women enter their childbearing years. Blacks, Asians and Hispanics accounted for about 79 percent of the national population growth between 2000 and 2009, Mr. Johnson said.
The result has been a changed American landscape, with whites now a minority of the youth population in 10 states, including Arizona, where tensions over immigration have flared, said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution.
“This is a huge demographic transformation,” Mr. Frey said. “A cultural generation gap is emerging.”
The growing divide between a diverse young population and an aging white population raises some potentially tricky policy questions. Will older whites be willing to allocate money to educate a younger generation that looks less like their own children than ever before? How will a diverse young generation handle growing needs for aging whites?