In 2008, Barack Obama held up change as a beacon, attaching to it another word, a word that channeled everything his young and diverse coalition saw in his rise and their newfound political power: hope. An America that would elect a black man president was an America in which a future was being written that would read thrillingly different from our past.
In 2016, Donald Trump wielded that same sense of change as a threat; he was the revanchist voice of those who yearned to make America the way it was before, to make it great again. That was the impulse that connected the wall to keep Mexicans out, the ban to keep Muslims away, the birtherism meant to prove Obama couldn’t possibly be a legitimate president. An America that would elect Donald Trump president was an America in which a future was being written that could read thrillingly similar to our past.
This is the core cleavage of our politics, and it reflects the fundamental reality of our era: America is changing, and fast. According to the Census Bureau, 2013 marked the first year that a majority of US infants under the age of 1 were nonwhite. The announcement, made during the second term of the nation’s first African-American president, was not a surprise. Demographers had been predicting such a tipping point for years, and they foresaw more to come.
The government predicts that in 2030, immigration will overtake new births as the dominant driver of population growth. About 15 years after that, America will phase into majority-minority status — for the first time in the nation’s history, non-Hispanic whites will no longer make up a majority of the population.
That cross will come in part because America’s black, Hispanic, Asian, and mixed-race populations are expected to grow — indeed, the Hispanic and Asian populations are expected to roughly double, and the mixed-race population to triple. Meanwhile, the non-Hispanic white population is, uniquely, expected to fall, dipping from 199 million in 2020 to 179 million in 2060. The Census Bureau minces no words here: “The only group projected to shrink is the non-Hispanic White population,” they report.
This isn’t just a statement about the future; it’s a description of the present. The economist Jed Kolko notes that the most common age for white Americans is 58, for Asians it’s 29, for African Americans it’s 27, and for Hispanics it’s 11. A new report out of the University of Wisconsin Madison’s Applied Population Lab found that white births are now outnumbered by white deaths in 26 states, up from 17 in 2014 and four in 2004.
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