On linear projections

White Americans' majority to end by mid-century:

The estimated time when whites will no longer make up the majority of Americans has been pushed back eight years -- to 2050 -- because the recession and stricter immigration policies have slowed the flow of foreigners into the U.S.

Census Bureau projections released Wednesday update last year's prediction that white children would become a minority in 2023 and the overall white population would follow in 2042. The earlier estimate did not take into account a drop in the number of people moving into the U.S. because of the economic crisis and the immigration policies imposed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

The United States has 308 million people today; two-thirds are non-Hispanic whites.

First, the title is a little of a misnomer. In the 2000 Census 47% of Hispanics identified as whites (42% as "other," with the balance blacks, mixed, Asian, etc.).* But the reality is that under the American law for operational purposes (e.g., affirmative action) there's no distinction between white and non-white Hispanics (though socially no doubt white Hispanics experience life differently than Hispanics of black, indigenous or mixed origin). But the bigger point is the problems and sensitivities to initial conditions when it comes to straight line projections. You never know what's going to happen. I just read today in a book published this year that St. George's, Utah, will have a population of 450,000 in the year 2030! This is ridiculous. In any case, I took Census projections and plotted the one which posits a middling level of immigration.


A few things I noticed:

1) If you compare it to the other models of immigration, increased, reduced, and total closed borders, Asians rely on immigration to increase their number a great deal. The Asian American birthrate is low, so their proportion in 2050 would be lower than today. Hispanics benefit from immigration, but since their birthrate is high, the different models all show an increase.

2) Only in the no immigration model do blacks increase their proportion appreciably between now and 2050. I think this shows the weakness of the methods here, Africa's population is increasing a great deal, so it is likely that its contribution to the stream of immigration will increase in the future, while Asia and Latin America's will decrease (both because of population stabilization, and economic development).

3) Strangely, Hispanics are just counted as white by and large. Where is the "other" segment? So inclusive of Hispanic whites, all the models here predict that 3/4 of the American population will remain white.

4) Look at the lines. So clean. Worthy of the savants who predicted that the housing market would never drop....

* The Hispanic/Latino identity as such is to a great extent an American construction, though of course the commonalities of Latin America are clear. One could say the same for the even more incoherent term Asian American.

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Thank you!

There needs to be more criticism of linear projections as they seem to dominate so much of popular level debate. Of course, they can be quite instructive, but it's too easy for many to walk away with a view that is simple to argue against.

By emblazoned (not verified) on 17 Dec 2009 #permalink

So it looks like the demographic future of America lies somewhere between Colombia and Argentina but with more blacks.

A bit tangential, but are there any demographically significant states in (sub-Saharan) Africa that are developing to the point that they would attract significant numbers of immigrants from within the continent in the foreseeable future? Kenya, maybe? I think South Africa passed fairly restrictive immigration laws in the 90s (the recent influx from Zimbabwe is largely illegal). Of course that could change. Botswana is relatively well-off but tiny.

I guess it may not matter to the emigrants themselves so much where they go so long as they find a higher quality of life, but the prospect of Africa pumping out impoverished masses like a giant 19th century Ireland while the rest of the world develops is a little depressing. Maybe Chinese business will help them develop.

Some questions:

1) Will the hispanics/latinos maintain a coherent ethnic identity, as the black identity has done? How much will it merge with whites like past ethnic whites (irish, italians, poles)?

(For example, a good friend is half-Mexican, but has as much ethnic identity as my half-Irish friend -- almost none.)

2) Will the southwestern states (CA, AZ, NM, TX) have the problems of countries with market-dominant minorities?

Projections are in 2050 non-hispanic whites will be only 25% in CA, 35% in TX. They will still be the economic elite, if not the political elite. The low education levels of hispanics mean odds are likely there will a sizable hispanic underclass.

3) How will that change US politics?

CA and TX both are <50% nh-white today. But CA white elite is very left, while TX white elite are conservative. And in both states hispanic share of voters is much lower than population #s. TX has 12% blacks, while CA has 12% asians.


I am heartened that there is, so far, no hispanic Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton. There is no national figure who is the face of race-hustling anti-white hispanics. I think this is because hispanics are not as angry as blacks, and whites don't feel as guilty. But all it takes is one charismatic man. There is money to be made in stoking the fire of ethnic animosity.

We'll see what happens. Whites have never been an outright political minority in a state before. Today they still have a plurality in the southwest, but hispanics will overtake them over the next few decades. This is something new.

mark, colombia actually has a lot of blacks. the numbers depend on the source and definition, but probably around 10% at least i'd say.

Are there any predictions for Europe?

Kenya and South Africa have attracted large numbers of refugees from the failed states next door (Somalia and Zimbabwe). Kenya is pretty fragile itself though, as we saw after the ethnic violence associated with the election a couple years ago.
Botswana is one of the most ethnically homogeneous nations in Africa (it is named for the major ethnic group, the Tswana). I don't think it would be particularly welcoming for immigrants (at least poor, unskilled ones- the country does have fairly sizable white and Indian populations).