Saturday, December 22, 2012

America is Changing ... We're Getting Older and More Diverse ... And We'll Become a Better Nation as We Go

Americans are getting older, and we're looking different, too.

But the combination of older and more diverse can either work to our advantage or against us as a society. It's our choice as a self governing nation.

As diversity's biggest component, Hispanics will continue growing to be a very large part of our population.

But the bigger issue is demographic --- we're not replacing our population at a pace which will enable our country to satisfy its obligations to current workers and their children.

So it's one thing that we're getting more diverse. That's not a bad thing and can in fact be a very good thing.

But getting to the point where fewer and fewer active workers per retiree is the norm is actually quite troublesome. It will negatively impact the future well being of all Americans.

Hispanic Future in the Cards is subtitled 'Whites to represent 43% of U.S. by 2060, Down from 63% Today:'

"By 2060, Hispanics will account for nearly one in three people in the U.S., nearly double their share of the population today, the Census Bureau said Wednesday in a report that carries significant political and cultural implications.

The bureau estimates that by 2043, whites no longer will be in the majority among racial groups, with no one race representing more than half of the population. The white population is projected to peak in 2024 at nearly 200 million and then begin to fall, as older whites die at a faster pace than new white babies are born.

By 2060, non-Hispanic whites will represent 43% of the U.S., down from 63% today. In 1960, whites made up 85% of the U.S., a share that began to fall after immigration limits were relaxed in 1965.

The projections reinforce a trend the Census Bureau has reported before, most recently in 2008. But the new report, which extends the bureau's projections to 2060, show a more striking shift toward nonwhites.

Additionally, the report projects that the overall population will grow more slowly than previously thought, based on lower projections for both fertility and migration. The population now is expected to reach 400 million by 2051, 12 years later than in prior projections. The country has about 315 million people today.

The report paints a picture of a nation becoming considerably more racially diverse, with the portion of blacks, Asians and people of multiple races all rising, alongside Hispanics.

At the same time, the nation will grow older, the Census Bureau said, with whites making up a disproportionate share of the aging population.

By 2056, people age 65 and older are projected to outnumber those under 18 for the first time. Over time, fewer working-age adults will be in the labor force to support retirement and medical benefits for the aging. The working-age share of the population is projected to decline from 62.7% in 2012 to 56.9% in 2060.

The shifts set up a contrast between a set of younger, racially diverse Americans and older, whiter ones, whose interests may be at odds. Underscoring the shifts is the Census Bureau's finding that by 2018, whites will no longer represent a majority of children in the U.S. Last year for the first time, less than half of all babies in the U.S. were white.

"I think the fundamental axis on which American politics now turns is this demographic shift," said Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, a Hispanic advocacy group in Washington. "We have an older white population that is shrinking and a younger, browner population which is growing.". . .

The population shifts also pose fresh policy challenges for Washington, said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. Older, white Americans may not be naturally inclined to support the sort of government aid that younger minorities see as helping them to move into the middle class, he said, such as funding for education, student loans or housing.

He said policy makers who support that funding will need to persuade older Americans that an educated workforce is necessary to generate the taxes needed to support aging boomers in retirement, among other imperatives.

The implications extend well beyond politics. High school dropout rates among Hispanics are higher than they are for whites or blacks, posing new challenges for schools, given the growing presence of young Hispanics in the population. . . .

The Hispanic population's rise is being driven by higher fertility rates than whites, and by the large presence of Hispanics among immigrants arriving to the U.S."

Summing Up 

America is much more of a simple idea than it is a place. And that idea is centered on human freedom and a self governing democracy. That won't change.

When we became a nation, there were approximately 3 million citizens. There were also 13 states. Now the numbers are more than 300 million citizens and 50 states.

The citizenship of African-Americans and Hispanics, as well as Native Americans, came long after our founding. And women weren't even allowed to vote until long after we became a nation.

So America has changed a great deal over the centuries. But one thing hasn't changed. Our ideals as expressed in the Declaration of Independence and later in the Constitution

As the oldest self governing republic on the face of the earth, we're the best one, too.

We'll continue down the road to personal freedom, self reliance and interdependency and remain the place where people want to be.

And we'll need more immigrants and a better educated population which will provide a globally competitive workforce able to facilitate substantial economic growth.

That growing immigrant population is in large measure what's going to be required to help support our oldsters as they retire.

At least that's my take.

Thanks. Bob.

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