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As America Ages, Generational Gap Between Whites and Minorities Widens

Don Lee, Los Angeles Times

As the U.S. population ages and becomes more racially diverse, the country is seeing a widening demographic gap between older whites and young minorities–a shift with significant social and economic implications for the future.

Non-Hispanic white Americans made up almost 79% of the country’s population of people older than 65 years old as of last July, but the white share of residents under 15 years of age slipped further to 51.8%, according to an analysis of new Census Bureau data released Thursday. By comparison, Latinos accounted for 7.5% of people in the U.S. over 65, but almost 25% of those under 15.

The large population gains of Latino and other minority youth mean nonwhites will not only have more voting clout in the years ahead but also constitute the labor force of tomorrow.

Yet this racial generational gap, which is particularly large in California and the Southwest, also points up the potential challenges as the U.S. relies on younger minorities to pick up the slack of an aging nation, including supporting social programs for a mostly white senior population.

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The economy also is a major factor behind the changes in immigration. The nation’s foreign-born population grew by 843,145 people from 2012 to 2013, down about 5% from the previous 12-month period, according to the census data. The drop came mostly from Latinos, whose immigrant population growth has been overtaken by Asians in the last two years.

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In fact, the number of Asian immigrants in the U.S. rose by 337,587 last year, up 6% from 2012. That was the primary reason Asians were the fastest-growing racial group last year. Between July 2012 and July 2013 the Asian population in the U.S. increased by almost 2.9% to 19.4 million.

That compares with a population growth rate of 2% for Latinos during the same period, to 54.1 million as of last July; and an increase of 1% for blacks, to 41.6 million.

Non-Hispanic whites still constitute the majority of the nation’s population at 62.6%, but their numbers barely changed last year, at 197.8 million.

Madeleine Sumption, an economist and research director at the Migration Policy Institute’s international program, says two big factors are behind the relatively rapid gains in the Asian population: a surge of Chinese foreign students over the last decade, some of whom are staying on to work after graduating; and the growing ranks of professionals from India, who are receiving about two-thirds of the so-called H-1B work visas.

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