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December 12, 2012

Whites won't be a majority by 2043, projections say

Texas was one of the first to reach “minority- majority” status.

WASHINGTON -- White people will no longer make up a majority of Americans by 2043, according to new census projections. That's part of a historic shift that is reshaping the nation's schools, workforce and electorate and is redefining long-held notions of race.

The official projection, released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau, places the tipping point for the white majority a year later than previous estimates, which were made before the impact of the economic downturn was fully known.

Texas was at the forefront of the trend, hitting "minority-majority" status in 2011, when more than half its population, 55.2 percent, was of a race other than non-Hispanic white, according to demographic data released in May.

The District of Columbia, Hawaii, California and New Mexico are also minority-majority.

America continues to grow and become more diverse because of higher birthrates among minorities, particularly Hispanics who entered the U.S. at the height of the immigration boom in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Since the housing bust, however, the once-torrid pace of immigration from Mexico and other nations has slowed.

America's changing demographics have big political implications, as demonstrated by last month's election. President Barack Obama won a second term, in no small part because of support from 78 percent of nonwhite voters.

There are also social and economic ramifications. Fights over civil rights and racial equality are going in new directions, promising to reshape race relations and common notions of being a "minority."

Residential segregation has eased, and intermarriage for first- and second-generation Hispanics and Asians is on the rise, blurring racial and ethnic lines and boosting the number of people who identify as multiracial.

By 2060, multiracial people are projected to more than triple, from 7.5 million to 26.7 million. That trend could render notions of race labels increasingly irrelevant, experts say, if the lingering stigma over being of mixed race can fully fade.

The non-Hispanic white population, now at 197.8 million, is projected to peak at 200 million in 2024 before entering a decline in absolute numbers as the massive baby boomer generation enters its golden years.

Four years after that, racial and ethnic minorities will become a majority among adults 18 to 29 and wield an even greater impact on the "youth vote" in presidential elections, the Census Bureau says.

"Moving forward, the U.S. will become the first major postindustrial society in the world where minorities will be the majority," said Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, a global expert on immigration and the dean of the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles.

With the white baby boomer population leaving the workforce, the big challenge will be educating the new immigrants, he said.

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