The white population in the United States has decreased from 79.6 percent in 1980 to 61.9 percent in 2014, according to a new study from the University of New Hampshire.
The percentage of Latino Americans has risen from 6.4 percent to 17.3 percent over the same time period, while both the African American and Asian American populations have gone up, the study finds.
The number of non-Hispanic whites who died in 2014 outpaced the number of white births in 17 U.S. states, representing the largest number of states to experience a natural decrease in the white population in American history, the study shows.
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Researchers at UNH's Carsey School of Public Policy point to an aging white populace, and a decline in births slowed by the economic recession and by fewer women of childbearing age.
"Decrease is the ultimate demographic consequence of population aging, low fertility, and a diminishing proportion of the childbearing-age population," researchers Rogelio Saenz and Kenneth Johnson wrote. "The rapid rise in the number of U.S. states experiencing white decrease reflects the demographic changes underway."
Nationally, the number of whites born in 2014 is only slightly higher, 2.15 million, than the number of whites who died, 2.06 million. A decade ago, white births outpaced deaths by nearly 400,000 each year. The ratio of white births to deaths fell 79 percent between 1999 and 2014.
Members of the baby boom generation, a generation with a greater percentage of whites than younger generations, are beginning to reach retirement age, and mortality rates are rising. Today, the median age of a white American is 43, four years higher than it was in 2000. The number of white Americans over the age of 65 has jumped from 15 percent to 18 percent of the overall white population.
By contrast, the average American Latino is just 28 years old. Latino birth rates exceeded death rates in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the researchers find.
Nationally, the number of white Americans is expected to begin declining in absolute numbers between 2030 and 2040, according to projections from the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2050, whites are expected to make up less than half the U.S. population.
Whites experienced natural declines mostly in northeastern, eastern and southern states, according to data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The rapidly aging white population and fast-growing younger minority groups are speeding demographic changes across the country, hastening a political divide likely to have long-term ramifications, a TheHill news daily report commented.
And there is little chance that the decreases will reverse since researchers routinely find that once a natural decrease begins, it is unlikely to reverse itself, said the report, citing more states are likely to join the list of white natural decrease in future years based on the UNH's study.
The growing ranks of aging baby boomers will weigh heavily on the nation's healthcare costs, as older residents tend to use more health services. The tug and pull between an aging population that is mostly white and a growing, younger population that is more diverse is likely to set off years of political fights over spending priorities across the country.
Those fights are already underway, as Republicans and Democrats pull increasing shares of votes from more defined demographic groups, said the report.