More white people died in the U.S. last year than were born, a surprising slump coming more than a decade before the census predicts that the ranks of white Americans will drop with every passing year.
What do you even say to this (Bangor Daily News)?
Population estimates for 2012 released by the Census Bureau Thursday showed what’s known as a natural decrease — a straightforward calculation of births minus deaths — of about 12,400 people among the nation’s 198 million whites who are not Hispanic. Overall in Maine, the number of deaths exceeded births statewide in 2012.
Though the percentage is small, several demographers said they are not aware of another time in U.S. history — not even during the Depression or wartime — when the dominant racial group experienced such shrinkage. No other group showed a similar fall off.
The decrease was offset by 188,000 white immigrants, primarily from Canada and Germany, but also from Russia and Saudi Arabia. And non-Hispanic whites remain the single largest group, making up 63 percent of the country.
But demographers were surprised by the outsized drop in births compared to deaths, which the Census Bureau projects will begin happening with regularity by 2025.
“We’re jumping the gun on a long, slow decline of our white population, which is going to characterize this century,” said William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution. “It’s a bookend from the last century, when whites heped us grow. Now it’s minorities who are going to make the contributions to our economic and population growth over the next 50 years.”
A number of demographic and economic factors are behind the slowdown that has been underway for several years.
As a group, non-Hispanic whites are considerably older than anyone else, with a median age of 42. The median age for Asians is 34. For African Americans, it’s under 32 and for Hispanics it’s under 28.
Yes, you should have had a son...
Women with college degrees of all races have been delaying marriage and childbearing to the end of their 20s and beyond, until they have finished their educations and established careers. Once they settle down, they tend to have fewer children. Census figures also show that white women are far more likely to be childless than Hispanic or African American women.
The recession that began in late 2007 exacerbated those longterm trends. Fertility rates have been slowly dropping since 2007. For white women, they are now below the level considered necessary to keep the population at a stable level. During the recession, researchers found women who had lost health insurance or whose partners were unemployed were reluctant to have more children at a time when they could least afford them.
This latest demographic fall is not the first harbinger of the future. Earlier this year, census figures showed that for the first time in U.S. history, a majority of newborn babies were minorities.
Ken Johnson, a demographer with the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire, said the demographics suggest many people are making the decision about whether to have children as if the recession had not ended. Even if the fertility rates pick up, he said, there will be just a temporary lull before people born in the 1940s and 1950s start dying in large numbers.
“This has more to do with births than it does deaths,” he said. “Once this recession has waned, we’re probably going to see at least a temporary uptick in births, until death rates start to rise. Then there’ll be no stopping it.”