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What we're reading: White America reacts to surging minority numbers

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services welcomes 200 new citizens from 50 countries during a ceremony in honor of Independence Day. Photo: Bryan R. Smith/AFP

Vox's editor-at-large Ezra Klein took a deep dive today into America's shifting demographics to examine the Obama to Trump transition and understand "what happens... when a majority feels its dominance beginning to fail."

The big picture: In 2013, a majority of infants in the U.S. were nonwhite, the first time in the nation's history.

  • That comes ahead of immigration overtaking births as the driver of population growth (anticipated 2030) and a majority-minority status in the nation (2045).
  • While all minority populations are expected to expand, non-Hispanic whites will shrink in number: 199 million in 2020, 179 million in 2060.

Between the lines:

  1. The most common (not average) age for white Americans in 58, while it is 29 for Asians, 27 for African Americans and 11 for Hispanics, economist Jed Kolko tweeted in June.
  2. Americans are feeling these changes, even before they hit. The Center for American Progress, PolicyLink and the Rockefeller Foundation found that "the median participant believed the country was 49 percent nonwhite; the correct answer was 37 percent."
  3. When metro riders are surrounded by Spanish speakers, their attitudes on immigration "moved sharply rightward" after three days, according to a study by Harvard political scientist Ryan Enos.
  4. "Even gentle, unconscious exposure to reminders that America is diversifying... pushes whites toward more conservative policy opinions and more support of the Republican Party," Klein writes.

As Klein points out, "Demographers can and do disagree over whether these projections will hold. Perhaps Hispanic whites will begin identifying simply as whites in the coming years, much as the Irish became white in the 20th century. Race is what we make of it, and what we make of it shifts and mutates."

  • Further, "The experience of losing status — and being told that loss of status is part of society’s march to justice — is itself radicalizing."

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