The non-Hispanic white population is not growing as quickly as other groups in the U.S. Credit: Lightfield Studios/shutterstock.com

Since the settlement of Jamestown in 1607 and the start of the Colonial period, the U.S. has been predominantly white.

But the white share of the U.S. population has been dropping, from a little under 90% in 1950 to 60% in 2018. It will likely drop below 50% in another 25 years.

White nationalists want America to be white again. But this will never happen. America is on its way to becoming predominantly nonwhite.

Who is white?

The U.S. federal government uses two questions to measure a person’s race and ethnicity. One asks if the person is of Hispanic origin, and the other asks about the person’s race.

A person is defined as white if he or she identifies as being only white and non-Hispanic. A minority, or nonwhite, person is anyone who is not solely non-Hispanic white.

A planned question for the 2020 census.

Whites were not the first people to settle in what is now the U.S. The first immigrants were a people known today as American Indians and Alaskan natives, also commonly referred to as Native Americans. They arrived in North America around 14,000 years ago.

When Christopher Columbus arrived in America in 1492, there were around 10 million American Indians living in the lands north of Mexico. But by the 1800s their numbers had dwindled to about 1 million. They are now the smallest race group in the U.S.

The first sizable stream of immigrants to what is now the U.S. were whites from England. Their arrival at Plymouth in 1620 in search of religious freedom marked the start of large waves of whites coming to this land.

When the U.S. was established as a country in 1776, whites comprised roughly 80% of the population. The white share rose to 90% in 1920, where it stayed until 1950.

Declining numbers

The proportion of whites in the U.S. population started to decline in 1950. It fell to gradually over the years, eventually reaching just over 60% in 2018 – the lowest percentage ever recorded.

Although the majority of the U.S. population today is still white, nonwhites account for more than half of the populations of Hawaii, the District of Columbia, California, New Mexico, Texas and Nevada. And, in the next 10 to 15 years, these half dozen “majority-minority” states will likely be joined by as many as eight other states where whites now make up less than 60% of the population.

Census Bureau projections show that the U.S. population will be “majority-minority” sometime between 2040 and 2050. Our research suggests that this will happen around 2044. Indeed, in 2020, there are projected to be more nonwhite children than white children in the U.S.

The nonwhite population is growing more rapidly than the white population. Minorities accounted for 92% of the U.S. population growth between 2010 and 2018, with Latinos comprising just under half of the nation’s overall growth.

Behind the trends

Why are the numbers of white people declining, and why are nonwhite numbers increasing? The answer is basic demography: births, deaths and immigration.

White women have an average of 1.7 children over their lifetimes, while Latina women average 2.2. The total fertility rates of blacks, Asians and American Indians are in between. So whites have fewer births than all nonwhite groups.

There are also big differences in age structure. Sixty-two percent of Latinas 15 years of age or older are of childbearing age. Only 42% of white women fall into this group. Latinos also have lower mortality rates than whites. Demographers call this the “epidemiological paradox.”

In 2015, for the first time, there were more white deaths in the U.S. than white births. Indeed, as of 2016, in 26 states, whites were dying faster than they were being born. The states with more white deaths than white births include California, Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

How about immigration to the U.S.? Of the more than 43 million foreign-born people living in the U.S. in 2015, 82% originated in Latin America and Asia. Only 11% were born in Europe. So whites don’t increase their representation in the U.S. via immigration.

The future of whiteness

The aging white population, alongside a more youthful minority population, especially in the case of Latinos, will result in the U.S. becoming a majority-minority country in around 2044.

The demographic shift in the U.S. has resulted in many whites proclaiming that they are losing their country, and that they already are or will soon become a minority group.

In her research on working-class whites in rural Louisiana, sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild observes that many whites feel frustrated and betrayed, like they are now strangers in their own land. In Trump, they saw a white man who brought them together to take their country back. Hochschild points out that at a Trump campaign rally, whites held signs with slogans such as “TRUMP: MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” and “SILENT MAJORITY STANDS WITH TRUMP.”

The decline of the white share of the U.S. population could result in the shifting of racial boundaries to assign whiteness to some people of color so as to bolster the white numbers.

This has happened before. Groups that were initially seen as very different from whites, such as the Irish and Italians, once sought to distance themselves from blacks, and eventually were accepted as white.

In addition, although persons of Mexican origin largely identified racially as white, in the 1930 census “Mexican” was used as a racial category, at a time when there was heightened hostility against Mexicans due to their growing population size and the Great Depression.

But any future changes cannot override demography. The U.S. will never be a white country again.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Dudley Poston

Dudley Poston is an emeritus professor of sociology at Texas A&M University and a demographer who conducts research in several areas, including the demography of race and ethnicity, international migration,...

Rogelio Sáenz

Rogelio Sáenz is a professor in the department of demography at the University of Texas at San Antonio who has written extensively in the areas of demography, Latina/os, race and ethnic relations, inequality,...

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13 Comments

  1. Race is not important, but culture is very important. If we lose the America of individual liberty and entrepreneurial striving we will not be the same nation as we once were.

    1. The average sub-Saharan IQ is 70. This is not a cultural phenomenon – no matter how much you would like to pretend otherwise.

      1. IQ are a very imperfect measure of intelligence. They are designed by specific cultures for specific cultures and normed on those cultures. However you would like to pretend otherwise there is actually more genetic diversity within Africa than there is between Africa and the rest of the planet so the concept of some vast difference in intellect is nonsensical. And I’m a psychologist with decades under my belt so I know what I’m talking about on IQ tests. I guarantee criterion referenced testing would not show the differences that culture specific IQ tests do. And that’s before we get into social and educational variables.

        1. I think there is some truth to the notion that IQ tests are an imperfect measure, but how else would it be done? If you are a psychologist then surely you’d know that the Wechsler IQ tests include versions made for other cultures.

      2. How do you explain that Nigerian immigrants to the USA earn more money than White Americans? I’ve got to go with the facts.

  2. What happens when you accept the reality that most Hispanics self-identify as white. You are just playing games – we are whiter now than we every have been. You have been played.

  3. So whites were 90% of the population in 1950 but the idiots who wrote this article could not find a chart to duplicate their poor reporting.

    As an aside, please name for me your favorite black or Hispanic run country? The one to which you would pack your bags and run? Yep, I thought so. Stupid people and liars comment at will….

    Is it culture or genetics? Idiots would like to pretend that it is neither that make a culture/country successful. Again, stupid or liar?

  4. What isnt mentioned is the fact that birth rates are higher in less successful cultures. Every wealthy country in the world, which unsurprisingly happen to all be white, have much lower birth rates than non-white countries. Its not impressive to have children, and it is no sign of success. If that was the case, then Africa would be home to some of the most financially/economically successful nations in the world.

    1. Not all successful countries are white, I think you have forgotten Japan and South Korea, which are also beginning to feel the effects of the demographic transition.

      1. Not all, but most. Looking at every measure of well being and success like HDI, gdp per capita etc….northwestern and northern european countries rank very high. And just white countries in general.

  5. So 3rd world country soon then? You write this article as if it’s a good thing, yet you fail to realize your writing your own epitaph. Build that wall!

  6. Since the settlement of Jamestown in 1607 and the start of the Colonial period, the U.S. has been predominantly white.

    This isn’t true. The US didn’t become majority white until the 1900s when Europeans were brought by the millions. Before that America was populated by the black people that are fictitiously claimed to have come from Africa.

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