With the announcement last week that white non-Hispanic babies are now officially in the minority, the United States has reached a pivotal tipping point. Demographics are shifting, and the news headlines have made this even more evident to the broader public.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, white babies now make up about 49.6 percent of babies one year old or younger. The data are from April 2010 to July 2011. Latinos account for 26 percent of all births. Many of these children are second-generation Americans born to immigrants.
According to a 2010 report from the Pew Hispanic Center, Hispanic women give birth to an average of 2.4 babies, compared with 1.8 babies for white women. On the front lines of this shift, where the population is youngest, we should identify and write about early learning programs that are targeting the needs of these young children and their parents.
This news should also prompt journalists to examine more closely the demographic changes in local communities to make the story more relevant to readers. For example, the suburbs outside urban centers once were regarded as “white flight” destinations. But at this point in time, many suburbs have become “majority minority.” You can see this just by getting out and visiting the classroom. How are school districts that have never before dealt with large percentages of minority children coping with this new reality?
In an interview with PBS NewsHour, New York University education professor Marcelo Suarez-Orozco stressed that the education system plays a critical role in ensuring the future success of these young children of color.
“While there are optimistic contours to these numbers, there are also a number of issues that we really need to pause and rethink,” he said. “First is the matter of are we as a society going to be able to transfer the skills, the competencies, the sensibilities to this new generation of Americans to thrive in the 21st century economy and society, and economy and society that is very, very different from what our education system in a way evolved to deal with? And that’s where we’re falling behind.”