As difficult as it might be for some recalcitrant Americans to believe or embrace — Trumpsters, listen up, this column is especially for you — the United States is in the midst of a profound and irreversible demographic shift.
Two dramatic changes in the nation’s population are occurring simultaneously: we’re getting older, and more racially diverse, according to a U.S. Census Bureau tip sheet released last week. Census figures show that fewer than 17 percent of U.S. counties reported a decrease in median age from April 2010 to July 2017, with the majority of those counties clustered in the Midwest. Nationally, the median age rose to 38.0 years in 2017, up from 37.2 years in 2000.
“Baby boomers, and millennials alike, are responsible for this trend in increased aging,” Molly Cromwell, a demographer at the U.S. Census Bureau, said in a statement released with the report. “Boomers continue to age and are slowly outnumbering children as the birth rate has declined steadily over the last decade.”
As the nation grows older, it’s also becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. “Nationally, the population of all race and ethnic groups, except for the non-Hispanic white alone group, grew between July 1, 2016, and July 1, 2017,” the Census statement said.
Nationally, the #population of all race & ethnic groups, except for the non-Hispanic white alone group, grew between 2016-2017. View our graphic to see how the nation has grown more diverse here: https://t.co/o0a1BtLanc pic.twitter.com/cYo1bZOIye
— U.S. Census Bureau (@uscensusbureau) June 21, 2018
Specifically, the Census Bureau reported:
- The Hispanic population increased 2.1 percent to 58.9 million.
- The black or African-American population increased 1.2 percent to 47.4 million.
- The Asian population increased 3.1 percent to 22.2 million.
- The American Indian or Alaska Native population increased 1.3 percent to 6.8 million.
- The Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander population increased 2.1 percent to 1.6 million.
- The population of those Two or More Races increased 2.9 percent to 8.7 million.
- The white alone-or-in-combination population increased 0.5 percent to 257.4 million.
- The non-Hispanic white alone population decreased .02 percent to 197.8 million.
Of course, none of these revelations are particularly earth-shaking. Keen demographers and social scientists have been tracking the so-called “browning of America,” for years.
But in the current political environment, it bears repeating over and over, if for no other reason than to remind more Americans of the inevitability of change. Soon — within the lifetimes of the vast majority of Americans alive today — the U.S. will no longer be a white-majority nation.
And that’s why this column is directed to Trump’s MAGA crowd, which seems hell-bent on returning the country to some idealized era of the 1950s or earlier, when white men were the unquestioned arbiters and beneficiaries of the nation’s politics, culture, and economy.
Indeed, the hateful atmosphere brought about by Trumpism and echoed in archly right-wing media has its roots in a vocal white nationalist movement, which seized on the president’s embrace of their racist rhetoric as permission to openly act on impulses that previously were tucked away from public view.
“Clues in the president’s language and behaviour led the alt-right to hope that he might really be one of them, and critics to accuse him of inciting racial hatred,” The World Weekly, an international online news magazine, reported recently. “Mr. Trump’s flagship campaign promises were music to the ears of self-described ‘white advocates,’ whose numbers swelled under Barack Obama.”
For all their bluster and bravado, however, white nationalists are whistling past their own graveyards. The numbers and unrelenting facts of demography stare in the face of those who believe they can restore some non-existant glory of white supremacy.
Valerie Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy (PREE), estimates that by the year 2043 — about 25 years from now — the U.S. will reach the tipping point when the country transitions to a majority-minority population. Among working-class Americans — made up of working adults without a college degree — she estimates the tipping point may arrive nearly a decade sooner, possibly by 2032,
In a 2016 PREE paper, Wilson observed the significance of these changes, and how important it will be to accept and embrace them, noting “the working class is increasingly people of color, raising working class living standards will require bridging racial and ethnic divides.”
What’s more, Wilson argues that there are policy challenges the nation must address to make the transition better for all Americans. “The best way to advance policies to raise living standards for working people is for diverse groups to recognize that they share more in common than not, and work together,” she wrote.
The sooner most Americans come to terms with this reality, the sooner the public will rally support and encourage politicians to deal with the changing demographics from a position of national strength, and not as the fearsome dilution of white superiority. One thing is certain: the changes coming to America aren’t going to suddenly shift into reverse, no matter how loudly Trump, his subservient congressional leaders, and white nationalists complain.
So, MAGA crowd, get with the future. It’s in your and the nation’s long-term, best interest to embrace the demise of white superiority in America.