Photo by Waltraud Grubitzsch/AFP/Getty Images.
The minority is the new majority.
The Census Bureau announced Thursday that most of the newborn babies in the United States belong to minority groups, the first time in history that whites of European ancestry have accounted for less than half of that total.
Minorities—including Hispanics, blacks, Asians and those of mixed race—accounted for 50.4 percent of all U.S. births during the 12-month period that ended last July, edging past non-Hispanic whites who made up 49.6 percent.
"This is an important tipping point," William H. Frey, the senior demographer at the Brookings Institution, told the New York Times, describing it as a "transformation from a mostly white baby boomer culture to the more globalized multiethnic country that we are becoming."
While the shift has long been expected, it comes as the nation encounters intense debates on its long history of minority discrimination and grapples with policy questions regarding Hispanic immigration. Hispanics, the most populous minority group at 16.7 percent of the nation's total population as of last year, tend to have more babies than whites and are the fastest growing group overall.
As the Associated Press notes, the report comes as the Supreme Court prepares to decide on a controversial immigration law in Arizona and as other states debate similarly strict laws. "We remain in a dangerous period where those appealing to anti-immigration elements are fueling a divisiveness and hostility that might take decades to overcome," Roderick Harrison, a former chief of racial statistics at the Census Bureau who is now a sociologist at Howard University, told the AP.
Meanwhile, the Times notes that the shift raises other important policy questions. The government has long struggled to provide equal education to minority youth, for example, while the leading factor in contemporary economic success remains the college degree. Frey told the Times that while 31 percent of whites hold a college degree, only 18 percent of blacks and 13 percent of Hispanics do. The Times also wonders whether the white majority of older Americans will "balk at paying to educate a younger generation that looks less like themselves." For more on that, check out the Times report here.
You can read more on the data from the Census Bureau here.