46 States Saw Young White Population Decline

This shift will ripple through the working-age population.

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Ronald Brownstein
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Ronald Brownstein
Aug. 12, 2015, 1 p.m.

Our labor mar­ket is grow­ing in­creas­ingly de­pend­ent on work­ers of col­or who now face per­sist­ent gaps in edu­ca­tion­al at­tain­ment and eco­nom­ic op­por­tun­ity. That’s evid­ent in the demo­graph­ic trends among the young people of today who will com­prise the work­force of to­mor­row.

Demo­graph­er Wil­li­am Frey, a seni­or fel­low at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion’s Met­ro­pol­it­an Policy Pro­gram, re­cently ana­lyzed the changes in the youth pop­u­la­tion across the 50 states from 2000 to 2014.

As the charts be­low show, Frey’s ana­lys­is pro­duced the strik­ing find­ing that the total num­ber of whites young­er than 20 de­clined in 46 of the 50 states over those years. While many Amer­ic­ans may be aware that whites are shrink­ing as a share of the youth pop­u­la­tion, the de­clin­ing ab­so­lute num­ber of whites in so many states points to­ward more pro­found changes in the na­tion’s make-up than most may be an­ti­cip­at­ing.

(Re­lated art­icle: “The Three Fast­est-Grow­ing Latino Groups Will Sur­prise You”)

Nine­teen states saw their white youth pop­u­la­tion de­cline from 2000-2014 by at least 100,000 (led by Cali­for­nia, New York and Pennsylvania). Among the 50 states, only Utah (at 66,909) saw a sig­ni­fic­ant in­crease in its pop­u­la­tion of young whites over that peri­od; the oth­er states that re­cor­ded gains (Idaho, South Car­o­lina, and North Car­o­lina) pos­ted min­im­al ad­vances of 10,791 or less.

Over­all, from 2000 to 2014, the na­tion ad­ded 8.2 mil­lion non-white kids young­er than 20-and lost nearly 6.6 mil­lion whites in that age group.

In sharp con­trast, the num­ber of kids of col­or in­creased in 48 of the 50 states from 2000 to 2014. Twenty-three states ad­ded at least 100,000 minor­ity kids over that peri­od (led by Texas, Cali­for­nia and Flor­ida). Only Mis­sis­sippi and Louisi­ana, the states most battered by Hur­ricane Kat­rina, saw a de­cline in their pop­u­la­tion of people of col­or young­er than 20.

In all, the num­ber of kids of col­or ad­ded in 30 states ex­ceeded the num­ber of white kids ad­ded in any state (Utah).

In in­di­vidu­al states, the two trend lines of­ten rock­eted in op­pos­ite dir­ec­tions.

Over this peri­od, Texas lost 236,736 whites young­er than 20—and ad­ded 1,553,182 non-whites in that age group. Flor­ida lost 269,319 young whites, and ad­ded 740,675 young people of col­or. In Cali­for­nia the re­place­ment was nearly one-to-one: the state lost 929,927 whites young­er than 20 and ad­ded 914,502 non-whites. Even in the Rust­belt, Pennsylvania lost 456,798 young whites and ad­ded 244,902 young non-whites.

Over­all, Frey cal­cu­lated, from 2000 to 2014, the na­tion ad­ded 8.2 mil­lion non-white kids young­er than 20-and lost nearly 6.6 mil­lion whites in that age group.

These changes in the com­pos­i­tion of Amer­ica’s youth will stead­ily ripple through the work­ing-age pop­u­la­tion. The trends among young people today are one reas­on Frey and oth­er ana­lysts have pro­jec­ted that rising ma­jor­ity groups will provide all of the net growth in the U.S. work­force through at least 2030. Over that peri­od, Frey and oth­ers fore­cast, not only will whites de­cline as a share of the work­ing-age pop­u­la­tion, but the ab­so­lute num­ber of work­ing-age whites will also shrink.

That means the na­tion will grow in­creas­ingly re­li­ant for its work­ers on young people from eth­nic and ra­cial groups that today ex­per­i­ence high­er rates of child­hood poverty, are more likely to be dis­con­nec­ted from both school and work, and are com­plet­ing four-year col­lege de­grees at much lower rates than whites. Fail­ing to close those gaps today, Frey notes, could leave Amer­ic­an em­ploy­ers scram­bling to find enough skilled work­ers to­mor­row.

“The good thing about demo­graphy is you can look ahead and see what’s com­ing,” says Frey. “And this is something we can point to and work at. The time is now to put a na­tion­al spot­light on it.”

Janie Boschma contributed to this article.
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