The Washington Post reports on the new Census Bureau release:
More white people died in the United States last year than were born, a surprising slump coming more than a decade before the Census Bureau says that the ranks of white Americans will likely drop with every passing year.
The decline in fertility is likely a consequence of the poor economy, and so there is every expectation that the “natural decrease” (i.e., births minus deaths) will prove temporary when (if) whites realize that the recession is over. But it will become permanent in the 2020s.
Two thoughts: First: the demographic changes are going to pose some significant challenges for economic growth and long-term fiscal stability. The Washington Post quotes Brookings Institution demographer William Frey: “Now it’s minorities who are going to make the contributions to our economic and population growth over the next 50 years.” Moreover, he correctly notes that “the natural decrease in whites suggests that aging whites will increasingly come to rely on the younger, mainly minority population to underwrite social programs that will sustain them.”
In my mind, this is a problem, in large part, because the children who will be the sources of tomorrow’s economic growth and revenues are currently living in poverty. According to the Census Bureau, 33.7 percent of Hispanic children and 38.8 percent of African American children are in poverty. The figures are far worse for female-headed households (44 percent and 42.3 percent, respectively). There are similarly dire statistics on the educational achievement of students in schools serving the poor (e.g., according to the National Center for Education Statistics, secondary schools where 76-100 percent of the students qualify for the National School Lunch Program’s free or reduced-price lunches have an average graduation rate of 68 percent and a college attendance rate of 28 percent). Add to this the high tax rates that are going to be necessary to fund the largest entitlement programs in the decades to come and you do not have a recipe for growth.
Second, it will be interesting to see if the GOP responds to these demographic shifts. Absent significant changes in policy orientations, the Republican Party will become a permanent minority. Given observation one, perhaps the GOP should look back into its recent past when key Republicans framed the debates on educational reform and market-based models of growth for the inner cities. Perhaps it should also get serious about reforming the largest entitlement programs before the Baby Boomers fully enter retirement.