By LAURA MECKLER
Whites to Represent 43% of U.S. by 2060, Down from 63% Today, Census Projects
By 2060, Hispanics will account for nearly one in three people in the U.S., nearly double their share of the population today, the Census Bureau said Wednesday in a report that carries significant political and cultural implications.
The bureau estimates that by 2043, whites no longer will be in the majority among racial groups, with no one race representing more than half of the population. The white population is projected to peak in 2024 at nearly 200 million and then begin to fall, as older whites die at a faster pace than new white babies are born.
By 2060, non-Hispanic whites will represent 43% of the U.S., down from 63% today. In 1960, whites made up 85% of the U.S., a share that began to fall after immigration limits were relaxed in 1965.
The projections reinforce a trend the Census Bureau has reported before, most recently in 2008. But the new report, which extends the bureau’s projections to 2060, show a more striking shift toward nonwhites.
Additionally, the report projects that the overall population will grow more slowly than previously thought, based on lower projections for both fertility and migration. The population now is expected to reach 400 million by 2051, 12 years later than in prior projections. The country has about 315 million people today.
The report paints a picture of a nation becoming considerably more racially diverse, with the portion of blacks, Asians and people of multiple races all rising, alongside Hispanics.
At the same time, the nation will grow older, the Census Bureau said, with whites making up a disproportionate share of the aging population.
By 2056, people age 65 and older are projected to outnumber those under 18 for the first time. Over time, fewer working-age adults will be in the labor force to support retirement and medical benefits for the aging. The working-age share of the population is projected to decline from 62.7% in 2012 to 56.9% in 2060.
The shifts set up a contrast between a set of younger, racially diverse Americans and older, whiter ones, whose interests may be at odds. Underscoring the shifts is the Census Bureau’s finding that by 2018, whites will no longer represent a majority of children in the U.S. Last year for the first time, less than half of all babies in the U.S. were white.
“I think the fundamental axis on which American politics now turns is this demographic shift,” said Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, a Hispanic advocacy group in Washington. “We have an older white population that is shrinking and a younger, browner population which is growing.”
The projections underscore the soul-searching within the Republican Party on how to better appeal to minorities. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney won the white vote last month by 20 percentage points, which in past elections likely would have been a large enough margin to take the White House. But the share of nonwhite voters hit a record, and he lost those groups by substantial margins.
The population shifts also pose fresh policy challenges for Washington, said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. Older, white Americans may not be naturally inclined to support the sort of government aid that younger minorities see as helping them to move into the middle class, he said, such as funding for education, student loans or housing.
He said policy makers who support that funding will need to persuade older Americans that an educated workforce is necessary to generate the taxes needed to support aging boomers in retirement, among other imperatives.
The implications extend well beyond politics. High school dropout rates among Hispanics are higher than they are for whites or blacks, posing new challenges for schools, given the growing presence of young Hispanics in the population.
The shifting racial makeup is affecting a range of other cultural and social touchstones. Second- and third-generation Americans are more likely to intermarry with people of other races, creating new generations of multiracial children.
Meantime, the growth of Hispanics has created new opportunities for marketers. Media companies have rushed to offer more Spanish-language TV in an effort to grab the growing ad dollars that corporations are spending to reach the growing group.
Hispanic TV represents one of the few growth opportunities for U.S. media companies. Last year, marketers in the U.S. shelled out 8% more on Spanish language TV than they had in 2010, while spending on English-language network TV declined by 2%, according to an ad-tracking unit of WPP PLC.
The Hispanic population’s rise is being driven by higher fertility rates than whites, and by the large presence of Hispanics among immigrants arriving to the U.S. The Census Bureau makes no distinction between legal and illegal immigration; its data includes all new arrivals.
A version of this article appeared December 12, 2012, on page A3 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Hispanic Future in the Cards.