04 July, 2015
Springfield, a community in the state of Virginia, is about 24 kilometers down the road from the U.S. Capitol building. There you will find what could be the face of the next generation in America. In a word, this is the face of diversity, the face of many races and ethnic backgrounds.
Thirty languages are spoken at Crestwood Elementary School in Springfield, Virginia. With about 660 students from kindergarten to sixth grade, many are recent immigrants who came with their families, looking for a new life in America.
They came from Afghanistan and Korea, Vietnam and El Salvador, Ethiopia and Indonesia. At home, they still speak the 30 languages of the countries from which they came.
Growth of minorities across the U.S.
How is it that those may be the faces of the next American generation?
Four states, California, Hawaii, New Mexico, Texas and Washington D.C., now have minority-majority populations. That means that there are more minority people than white people. Minorities are people who identified themselves as black, Native American, Asian, and Hispanic.
Within the next generation, minorities will be in the majority across the United States. That is according to new information released by the U.S. Census Bureau. And it may happen sooner than had been expected.
The U.S. will become very different than the one current people have seen in their lifetimes, says William Frey of the Brookings Institution. He is a demographer and author of Diversity Explosion. He says there will be many more people of color in the United States.
"Hispanics, Asians, African Americans. And it's that part of the population is going to grow rapidly, especially among people in the younger ages and that's really important because this growth of minorities is happening just in time to counter the very slow growth and rapid aging of the white population."
The average age of white people in the U.S. is now 43 years old. There are more deaths than births among the white population, according the Census data from July 2014.
In just the last decade, the population has become more racially and ethnically diverse. The Census Bureau said the percentage of minorities climbed from 32.9 percent in 2004 to 37.9 percent in 2014.
Millennials are more racially diverse
With the declining white population, Mr. Frey says that the growth of the young minority population is important to keep the U.S. economy strong.
"They're going to help make that labor force much more robust, much more vibrant in lots of ways."
The Census Bureau report also shows the "millennials" -- people born between 1982 and 2000 -- is now the largest group of Americans. There are now 83.1 million millennials, compared to 75.4 million "baby boomers," the older generation.
Mr. Frey says millennials are more racially diverse than the older baby boomers. Forty percent of millennials are racial minorities. He says they are a bridge to the next, and even more diverse, generation.
"So the millennials are playing a very important role in the United States because, I guess introducing people to a new America that they are going to have to look at in the next several decades."
He says as a group, millennials are more connected by technology and social media to the rest of the world. And, Mr. Frey says, they are more open to diversity.
"They do share an appreciation for, an openness for racial diversity. They're open to people of other backgrounds of other nationalities, different lifestyles."
The millennials, with their diversity and open views have already had an effect on society. The television show, "Fresh Off the Boat," about an Asian immigrant family is popular. And same-sex marriage is more accepted by this younger generation than the older one.
No doubt the 2016 presidential candidates are working to win the diversity vote as well. Several Republican candidates, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, speak Spanish and sometimes use it to appeal to the minority voters.
Mr. Frey says he is glad to see the new wave of immigrants moving into and all around U.S. cities and towns.
"I'm very optimistic about this and I think history is on the side of saying, you know, this is going to make our country stronger and people are going to be happy that we have this change going on."
I'm Anne Ball.
Anne Ball reported and wrote this story with material from VOA's Dora Mekouar's "All About America Blog." Hai Do was the editor.
Words in This Story
diversity- n. the quality of having many different forms, types, ideas
demographer -n. a person who studies changes, like the number of births, deaths, marriages, and illnesses, that happen over time
robust- adj. strong and healthy
vibrant- adj. having or showing great life, activity, and energy
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