Here's Exactly When White America Could Become A Thing Of the Past...

December 3rd 2014

For the last few years, The Brookings Institute has reported that the U.S. will be a majority minority country before 2050. This fast-moving trend line came alive this fall when U.S. public schools for the first time were majority minority.

"While whites will still outnumber any single racial or ethnic group this fall, their overall share of the nation’s 50 million public school students is projected to drop to 49.7%," Pew reported. "Since 1997, the number of white students has declined by 15%, falling from 29.2 million to 24.9 million in 2014."

Minorities in the U.S. are gaining ground as a result of growth in Hispanic and Asian American populations as well as deaths among whites outnumbering births. Texas, New Mexico, and California are already majority minority states.

Majority Minority Graph

Of course, the definition of "white" in America has never been consistent. European immigrants from countries such as Italy, Ireland, and Poland were not considered "white" in the decades that followed their arrival in the U.S. It was not until the early-to-mid 20th century that these groups were fully assimilated and folded into what we now consider "white." "[T]here is no constant idea of 'black' or 'white' across time or space," The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote earlier this year. "Throughout American history it has been common to speak of an 'Italian race,' an 'Irish race,' a 'Frankish race,' a 'Jewish race' even a 'Southern race.'" 

So are there groups today who, like the Irish in the 20th century, will move from "minority" to "white?" There's some evidence that this is happening among Latinos. More than 1.2 million Americans who considered themselves as being "of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin" in the 2000 census changed their race in the 2010 census from "some other race" to "white," according to Pew. This stat isn't perfect because the census asks us separately about ethnicity (i.e. "origin") and race. This means many Americans answered that their ethnicity is Hispanic while their race is white. 

Nevertheless, it's interesting, and it might mean America is not really headed toward a majority minority society. "Those projections assume that Hispanics aren’t white," Nate Cohn wrote for The Upshot earlier this year. "But if Hispanics ultimately identify as white Americans, then whites will remain the majority for the foreseeable future."

It appears we have one of two futures. Either America will be a majority minority country in 15 years or we'll change the definition of "white" to include more people.