Diversity Growing Because Births Far Exceed Deaths Among Minorities, But Not Among Whites

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The growing diversity of the U.S. population evident in new Census Bureau estimates reflects two important demographic trends. The minority population is growing and the non-Hispanic white population is not. This interplay of white and minority population change is fueling the growing diversity of the U.S. population. The minority population is growing both because births far exceed deaths and because there is significant immigration. In contrast, growth has been minimal among the non-Hispanic white population because aging has reduced births and increased deaths.

The distinctly different demographic trajectories among whites and minorities are driven by the interaction of several key demographic forces. Natural increase (births to deaths) is the major force behind the growing diversity of the U.S. population, though immigration remains important. Although the pace of U.S. population growth is slowing because of the lingering impact of the Great Recession and the aging of the population, the population continues to become more diverse. This will produce a rich tapestry of demographic change in the United States over the next several decades.

The importance of natural increase to the growing diversity of the U.S. population is clearly evident among non-Hispanic whites. Currently, whites account for 78 percent of all U.S. deaths, but less than 50 percent of births. In each of last three years, more non-Hispanic whites died than were born. Such natural decrease is without precedent in U.S. history. Between July of 2013 and July of 2014, there were 2,036,000 non-Hispanic white deaths, but only 1,975,000 births. So, deaths exceeded births by 62,000. This gap is wider than last year, when there were 1,980,000 non-Hispanic white births compared to 2,007,000 deaths: a difference of 27,000. The non-Hispanic white population did increase slightly each year, but only because of immigration. The immigration gain was 155,000 between July of 2013 and 2014. So, the non-Hispanic white population grew by just 94,000 (.04 percent). Ironically, non-Hispanic whites are now more dependent on immigration for population increase than any other group. Though non-Hispanic white natural increase may occur again as fertility rates recover from the economic downturn, it is likely to be short-lived because the population is aging rapidly.