PART II of a two-part series.
Some 40 states show population losses of white children since 2000 due to declining birth rates. Minorities represented all the increases in the under-18 population in Texas and Florida, and most of the gains in the child population in Nevada and Arizona.
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, according to U.S. census data.
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.”
Latinos fought to be counted fairly in Census 2010 and youth were at the core of that battle. Efforts to reach out to them, because they are often the cultural navigators for their parents, paid off in with formerly hesitant parents filling out the census forms with their teenagers.
And what Latino youth in America have in common with youth in Syria and Yemen is social networking. The power of Facebook and Twitter is not lost on them. The ethnic gap in cell phone use is less pronounced. Some 72% of Hispanics ages 16 to 17 use a cell phone, compared with 82% of non-Hispanics. The “Be Counted, Represent” campaign offered music downloads and a chance at concert tickets to cell phone users who shared their e-mail addresses and phone numbers with organizers and forwarded information about the census to their friends.
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 federal and state 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? Yes, I am talking bedpans in nursing homes. Long-term care is increasingly confronted with a cultural divide between those in residence and those who are being paid to take care of them.
And the political debates have been noisiest in the states with the largest gaps.
But whats to become of this great nation if we turn our backs on the next generation of Latino youth. If we continue to negatively stereotype the intellect of our African American and Latino youth, impairing their ability to compete fairly in the future economy, there will be no engine for innovation and productivity. Our nation will be weakened in our battle to maintain superiority over emerging nations such as India and China. We are in fact educating Indian and Chinese intellectual capital when these international students return with their PhDs to their homeland. If we don’t fill the educational gap by committing to educating our youth of color we have signed our own fate.