America's whites will become minority by 2042, says census bureau

David Usborne
Friday 15 August 2008 00:00

By the middle of this century, the United States will be a distinctly greyer country, thanks to the ageing of the baby boomers. Perhaps more surprisingly, however, it will also be a land where for the first time whites among the population will no longer be in the majority.

According to new projections released yesterday by the US Census Bureau, whites in America will find themselves in the minority by 2042, eight years earlier than had previously been suggested. The agency defines minorities in the US as anyone who is not a non-Hispanic, single-race white.

It is a surge in the Hispanic population that partly explains the changes in the country's demographic complexion. Thanks to continued immigration and growing birth rates, the number of Hispanics in America is expected to triple to 132.8 million by 2050, with its share of the total population rising from 15 per cent to 30 per cent.

The bureau does not try to explore the possible impact of the changes it foresees. But among them will be a much greater preponderance of Spanish as a first language in the country. The ageing of America's population also threatens severe financial implications for the government.

Officials know that without some politically unpopular sacrifices being made in the coming few years, involving either higher taxes or lower benefits or both, government funds for the social security system will soon run out just as the largest numbers of boomers are reaching retirement.

Its new data shows, for instance, that the segment of the population deemed to be of working age – those between 18 and 64 – will have fallen to just 57 per cent by mid-century compared with 63 per cent today.

The white population in the US will grow in the years ahead, but only slightly as birth rates decline and deaths increase. By 2050, the bureau says, there will be 203.3 million whites in the country compared with 199.8 million today.

The balance of blacks versus whites will remain roughly even, however. The bureau, which relies on assumptions about birth, death and immigration rates to make its predictions, sees the black population increasing to 65.7 million by 2050, or 15 per cent of the population, compared with 14 per cent today.

In terms of overall population growth, the US will be home to 400 million people by 2050, up from 305 million now, putting a strain on all facets of its infrastructure.

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