Story at a glance

  • Early analysis of the 2020 census reveals that minorities make up almost all of the U.S. population growth.
  • Population growth overall has slowed as the birth rate dropped throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The white population in the United States has been shrinking for the last five years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual updates of the 2010 Census.

Not counting the historic undercount of Indigenous and Black Americans, experts predict that the 2020 census will show a decline in the white population for the first time in U.S. history.

For the first time, the portion of white people could dip below 60 percent and the under-18 population is likely to be majority non-white, reported The Washington Post, hitting benchmarks previously expected to take nearly another decade.   

“Twenty years ago if you told people this was going to be the case, they wouldn’t have believed you,” William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, told the Post. “The country is changing dramatically.” 


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The reality may be even more stark, considering that the Trump administration stopped the count earlier than expected despite the coronavirus pandemic disrupting field operations. Early indications suggest there may have been an undercount of Latinos in the most recent census, experts say, who are often discouraged from completing the census due to their immigration status — although the Supreme Court ruled the question could not be asked. Indigenous populations have historically been undercounted as well and many racial and ethnic groups are not listed as options on the form, falling under “other.”

“People haven’t recognized that Latinos are changing the face of the nation,” Arturo Vargas, chief executive of NALEO Educational Fund, told the Post. “There is a meaningful and significant Latino population in virtually all states, except maybe Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. … What I would hope is that policymakers begin looking at their decisions about resource allocation and other policies through a Latino lens.” 


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At the same time, the Biden administration is looking to overhaul the census and expand the existing categories for race and ethnicity. Future counts could include more precise information about the nation’s makeup, which continues to shift even as the birth rate drops.
After falling to a record low in May, the birth rate has continued dropping at a faster rate than the previous year, despite predictions that the pandemic and economic shutdown would lead to a baby boom. Over the past decade, the United States population grew by just 6.6 percent, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, slower than any other decade in American history — including during the Great Depression.


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Published on Aug 11, 2021