“2050” Is Coming Sooner Than We Thought
“2050” is arriving much sooner than expected. In many ways, it’s already here. Non-Hispanic Whites are already a minority among citizens 10-years-old and younger. Analysis suggests that Whites will become a minority in the United States population by 2031—almost 15 years before the census estimate—and a minority of U.S. voters by 2044, foretelling major political changes in the immediate future.
In 1998, in a commencement address at Portland State University, Bill Clinton articulated his vision of the America of the future:
Today, largely because of immigration, there is no majority race in Hawaii or Houston or New York City. Within five years, there will be no majority race in our largest state, California. In a little more than 50 years, there will be no majority race in the United States. No other nation in history has gone through demographic change of this magnitude in so short a time …
“2050” has remained in the American political vocabulary ever since. It represents a dramatic turning point, when Whites will no longer be default, generic American citizens. The historical racial animus between Whites and Blacks will allegedly dissolve as neither race—indeed, no race—will predominate culturally, socially, or politically.
Clinton promised a kind of continuity in change: Immigrants are “renewing our most basic values and reminding us all of what it truly means to be American.” But how could there not be a tremendous, unforeseeable transformation of “what it means to be an American”?
The maxim “Demographics is destiny”—attributed to the father of sociology, Auguste Comte—holds doubly true in a democracy and mass-consumer society. Politics, institutions, norms, fashions, and icons are all subject to change and all respond to people.
The current Republican Party is overwhelmingly White: 90 percent of votes cast for Donald Trump in 2016 were by Whites, a tally that differed little from White support for Mitt Romney and John McCain in 2012 and 2008. As a whole, White Americans are more likely to identify as Republicans than Democrats (51 to 43 percent), and despite the general leftward tendency of youth, the majority of White millennial voters are solidly GOP.
The situation in the Democratic Party is a mirror reversal. Non-White citizens lean Democrat more strongly than Whites lean Republican: African-Americans—84 to 8 percent, Asians—65 to 27 percent; and Hispanics—63 to 28 percent. Non-white voters have become vital to the Democratic coalition. Nearly 40 percent of Hillary Clinton’s support in 2016 came from African-Americans, Asians, or non-White Hispanics.
Due to the fact that Whites compose some 70 percent of the voting population, they remain the critical factor in national elections—particularly critical because they do not engage in the “block” voting of other races. If Whites preferred Republicans to the same extent that African-Americans, Asians, or Hispanics prefer Democrats, the United State would effectively be a one-party state.
Nevertheless, the GOP have fared rather well by being “The White People’s Party” in all but name. Republicans might have lost the popular vote for President in the past three elections; however, these setbacks have masked a dominance at all levels of elected governance. As of 2018, Republicans control both Chambers of U.S. Congress and 33 of the 50 state legislatures. (Technically, Republicans control 32 legislators, as Nebraska has a single non-partisan chamber, but Republicans predominate there as well.)
Current Immigration patterns patently support the Democratic coalition, rendering the above arrangement unsustainable. In 1960, some 85 percent of immigrants came from White bastions like Europe and Canada; today, only 14 percent do. Central and South Americans countries account for more than 50 percent of total immigration, with Mexico alone making up some 25-30 percent. South and East Asia, whose immigrant populations were negligible in the past, now account for a quarter of the total.
The Reality of White Decline
When Bill Clinton mentioned “2050” in 1998, it was a far-off event—a “some day” prediction. In reality, “2050” will be here much sooner than the year 2050.
In the United States, the rates of growth of the Non-White population relative to the White population over the last 50 years suggest that Non-Hispanic Whites will become a minority of the total population around the year 2031. This is 14 years earlier than the official predictions of the 2017 Census Bureau, which projects that Non-Hispanic Whites will first become a minority in 2045.
Moreover, a simple growth rate estimate applied to exit polls for the Presidential elections ranging from 1976 through 2016 reveals that Non-Hispanic Whites are on track to becoming a minority of voters by the 2044 election. This finding further corroborates the thesis that the official Census Bureau projection is nearly 15 years too late.
Our prediction comes in the context of a gradual awakening to the reality of White decline. As William Frey of The Brookings Institute has detailed,
[F]or the first time, [there is] an absolute decline in the nation’s white population of more than 9,000 whites between 2015 and 2016 and more than 31,000 whites between 2016 and 2017. . . .
Although these annual white declines are extremely modest (of -0.005 and -0.016 percent in 2015-16 and 2016-17, respectively), they are an early harbinger of the long-term trend that the Census Bureau projected previously this year. Those projections showed the white population declining after 2023.
Remarkably, the year of Donald Trump’s election marked the first absolute decline among Whites since the 1790 Census.
The generation currently in grade school has already reached “2050” status. Frey continues,
[M]inorities outnumber whites nationally for each age under 10. . . . While earlier estimates revealed “minority white” status for some of these youthful ages, this is now solidly the case for individuals born in each year since 2007.
Hence, this generation, which might be called Generation Z-Plus, is the first truly minority white generation, at 49.6 percent white, where 26 percent of its members are Hispanics, 13.6 percent African-Americans, and nearly 10 percent include Asians and persons of two or more races.
This awakening to demographic reality has been gradual and, one could say, reluctant. Over the past year, the New York Times has published two major pieces on White Decline and even “Extinction Anxiety.” But as detailed below, there have been countervailing currents that have sought either to deny reality or soften it with euphemism and misdirection.
Our prediction of White minority status by 2031 is based on census data, but also supported by election exit-poll data. Exit-poll data is collected independently from census data and is much simpler. Despite being limited to the voting public, it provides a good alternative estimate for the White population and directly measures the political impact of demographics. Table 1 below shows a compilation of exit poll data that is made publicly available by the Roper Center of Cornell University.
The historical exit-poll data series is the percentage of voters that are Non-Hispanic White for Presidential Elections from 1976 through 2016. Next, the implied ratio of All Others to Non-Hispanic Whites is shown along with the changes (or growth rates) of this ratio between elections. Although the growth rate bounces around a bit, there is only one anomalous case of a negative value (in 1992). Chart 1 shows the ratio of non-White to White voters in each presidential election on a logarithmic scale.
We have fit a simple growth curve model to the ratio derived from The Roper Center data. This curve, which is shown as a straight line on the logarithmic scale in Chart 1, fits the data quite well. It predicts that Non-Hispanic Whites will become a minority of voters by the 2044 election. Note the decline in voter proportion lags behind the decline in total population proportion. For example, Non-Hispanic Whites were 63.7 percent of the total census in 2010 (see Table 2) but still 70 percent of voters as late as 2016 (see Table 1). This suggests that Non-Hispanic Whites will become a minority of the total population 10 years or more prior to their projected minority voter status, probably shortly after 2030.
Historical Data and Official Projections
Table 2 below shows the percentage of the total population that is Non-Hispanic White using both historical data and official projections as of 2017 from the U.S. Census Bureau. Here, as before with the exit poll data, the ratio of “All Others” to Non-Hispanic Whites is computed along with the corresponding growth rates and then fit with a simple growth curve model. These historical growth rates, for 10-year intervals between censuses, are more consistent than the growth rates for the exit poll data.
Note, the growth rates for the projections are on a five-year interval basis. When the growth curve is fit to historical data, in the range from 1970 through 2010, this results in a 31-percent growth rate for every 10 years, which is roughly equivalent to a 14 percent growth rate for every five years.
Conversely, the census projections show a conspicuously lower growth rate of only eight percent for every five years. Aside from a huge systematic change in immigration and fertility patterns, for which there exists little reason to suspect, this significantly lower rate is not reasonable to project. Chart 2 demonstrates the growth curve is a suitable fit for the historical data, yet it is dramatically out of line with the projection pattern in the official Census projections. The low growth rate in the official projections shows Non-Hispanic Whites first becoming a minority in 2045. In contrast, the growth curve projects Whites first becoming a minority 14 years earlier around 2031.
The Census Bureau has a history of overestimating Whites’ share of the population, and correspondingly underestimating the rate at which it is declining, in projections. Table 3 below shows that the official projections of the Census for Non-Hispanic Whites have tended to decline as the date at which the projection is made gets closer to the actual census date. For the 2010 census, the projections declined progressively from 67.3 to 64.7 percent, with the actual census number coming in at only 63.7 percent. The empirical data provided herein suggests that this overestimation of the White share in projections continues to the present day.
These late projections by the Census Bureaus for the decline of the White population are concerning. Of greater concern still is a recent appeal by two academics, Dowell Myers and Morris Levy, for the Census Bureau to use an unreasonably broad definition of Whites for, apparently, non-scientific purposes.
Census Bureau definitions of race/ethnicity are based on self identification. The Non-Hispanic White definition is imperfect, but a reasonable measure for the White population (See Appendix 1). Myers and Levy advocate a more “expansive” definition, at odds with common conception, that would include mixed race people who only partially identify as White.
Under a more expansive definition that counts as white anyone who so identifies (even if they also identify with another race or ethnicity), the white population is not declining. . . .
Forty-six percent of white Democrats and a whopping 74 percent of Republicans expressed anger or anxiety when reading about the impending white-minority status. . . .
But these negative emotions were far less frequent when participants read the second story about a more inclusive white majority. Only 35 percent of white Democrats and 29 percent of white Republicans expressed anger or anxiousness about this scenario.
This misleading and disingenuously broad definition of “White” is thus intended to soften the reality of the demographic change, so as to delay and dampen the potency of any reaction brought on by this revelation.
Bill Clinton’s 1998 prediction, of an America in the year 2050 where Whites are a minority, appears to be on a track to arrive much earlier. Analysis of demographic data suggests that 2031 is the new “2050.” Even the voting population, which lags significantly in demographic change, is on track for a White minority by 2044. This “2050” America has already arrived for children born in 2007 and later.
Beyond elections and party coalitions, “2050” foretells deeper, even philosophical changes to American politics and the American nation. Why should anyone take for granted freedom of speech, rule of law, environmental protection, and the peaceful transitions of power, when such values are uncommon in the home countries of recent immigrants? Why, indeed, should one have much confidence in the perseverance of “conservative values,” like gun rights, personal liberty, the nuclear family, private property, and the free-market?
If demography is destiny, then America is fast approaching a radically different destination than what its founders intended.
Appendix 1: The Confused and Confusing “Total Whites” Category
The broader definition of “White” (including Hispanic) used by the Census Bureau for data and projections has been highly inconsistent and is ultimately useless for measuring in any meaningful way the decline of the White population. Although many “Hispanics” (both in the U.S. and Latin America) would be considered White by any reasonable definition, the census definition has varied between allocating from about half to almost the entirety of the Hispanic population to the White category. The latter assumption leads to the absurd projection that “Whites” will still be as high as 68 percent of the U.S. population as late as 2060. Additionally, the Non-Hispanic White category is overly broad, including almost anyone of North African or Middle Eastern origin. Moreover, the Census Bureau changed its definition of “White Alone” to include respondents who identified as “White and Some Other Race” after 2010. The “Non-Hispanic White” category remains a fairly good measure, as the number of clearly White Hispanics missing is roughly offset by the inclusion of North Africans and Middle Easterners (who are not European).
The Census Bureau will implement further changes to racial and ethnic categories in the 2020 census. This is something to watch and may actually reduce their numbers for Non-Hispanic Whites by separating out groups like North Africans and Middle Easterners.
Appendix 2: The Simple Growth Curve Method
The percentage of Non-Hispanic Whites is, by definition, a number from 0 to 100 percent. This percentage is the ratio of two population counts: Non-Hispanic Whites and the total population, which are non-negative and not bounded by a maximum. These population counts can be expected to grow (or decline) over time geometrically, that is by a certain percentage over a certain period of time, as populations typically do.
The total population number includes the Non-Hispanic White number. Consequently, for reasons of statistical independence, it makes sense to compare the relative growth rates in All Others to the growth rates of the Non-Hispanic White population. This can be done by taking the ratio All Others / Non-Hispanic Whites, and looking at the percent change in this ratio over time.
To fit a model based on this relative growth rate, it also makes statistical sense to take the logarithm of this ratio. Taking the logarithm:
- Represents geometric growth as linear growth, so that a simple linear regression line may be fit.
- Reduces skewness and produce an approximately symmetric Normally Distributed (“Bell Curve”) residuals around a linear regression line.
The growth curve model in this paper follows the form: Log(X) = a + b T
X = ratio All Others/Non-Hispanic Whites
T = year
a, b = constants fit by linear regression