America's new minority majority

New US census figures indicate that there are more racial-minority babies being born than white babies.

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    According to new US census figures, for the first time in history, there are more minorities being born in the United States than whites.

    Still, this change in demographics hasn’t always been easy for Americans to accept.

    Minority babies now outnumber Caucasian babies being born, with Latino children driving the birthing boom.

    The census figures show Latino, Asian and African Americans made up 50.4 per cent of the births last year, up from 49.5 per cent in the previous census.

    This turning point is a result of an immigration wave that began in the US four decades ago.

    It’s predicted in another 30 years minorities will outnumber whites, in all age groups, not just infants.

    Still, the transition from a predominantly white society to one that is multicultural hasn’t been smooth for all.

    Struggle to navigate

    I visited the St Mary’s Center in Washington, DC on Thursday to see just how this transition is playing out.

    The centre specialises in helping immigrant women with prenatal, child care and adult education.

    It has just opened its fifth location to deal with the rising number of immigrant families in the country, struggling to navigate American society for themselves and their children, especially when it comes to its complex education system.

    Lisa Luceno, the director of St Mary's Early Childhood Education, told me: "Many parents come from countries where they have had very low levels of formal education and not a lot of opportunities to study, and here they find themselves in this context trying to advocate for their children."

    They’re often doing so in an environment that doesn’t always welcome the change in demographics towards a more multicultural United States.

    Economic and political elites in the US are still predominantly white.

    Minorities make up just 37 per cent of the total US population and are outnumbered in all of its states but four - California, Texas, New Mexico and Hawaii, as well as the District of Columbia.

    Considerable tension

    Roderick Harrison, former chief of racial statistics at the US Census Bureau and a sociologist at Howard University in Washington, says despite the shift towards multiculturalism, there’s still considerable racial and ethnic tension between whites and minority groups.

    He says it exists, "between people who are uncomfortable with this change. They feel that certainly in many cities, they can go to neighbourhoods they grew up in, that they no longer feel are theirs".

    Harrison also says those resistant to change often "speak of people moving into neighbourhoods that utilise invasion kinds of metaphors. So, right now, it is generating increasing tensions and hostilities between groups".

    Harrison says he expects that friction to continue for a generation.

    He believes this latest generation of predominantly Latino, Asian and African American babies will grow up more tolerant and open to diversity than the previous generation dominated by Caucasians.


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