The Best Story of Our Lives

If you like telling stories, spinning yarns, crafting
narratives, then you should love demographics — they are the best story of our lives.
Demographics, you see, aren’t just about numbers. They’re about covering how this
country changes from white to brown over the next quarter-century. That’s
something no other country has ever done.

Demographics are about power. They’re about people. When you
look at a white baby, you are looking at the new minority in this country. When
you look at black, Latino, Asian or Native American toddlers — you’re looking
at the baby face of the country’s new majority.

Florida, California
and Texas — any of these states could be a ground zero for this emerging and historic
story. The change is apparent when you look at children younger than 5 years old in these states:

  • California’s
    non-Hispanic white population is 43 percent. Less than one-third of those younger than 5 years old are non-Hispanic white.
  • Florida’s non-Hispanic
    white population is 62 percent. Less than one-half of those younger than 5 years old are non-Hispanic white.
  • Texas’
    non-Hispanic white population is 49 percent. Just a little more than
    one-third of those younger than 5 years old are non-Hispanic white.
  • The nation as a
    whole

    has a non-Hispanic white population of 67 percent. Just more than
    one-half of those younger than 5 years old are non-Hispanic whites.

The Census Bureau had forecasted that the U.S. would be
nearly majority minority by 2050
. The numbers now clearly indicate it will actually
happen a lot sooner — even if immigration begins to wane. (Click here
for 2005 numbers showing how quickly the country is changing. Open the
first Excel table and look at the second column of numbers under the
“Race alone or in combination” category.)

We will need to tell our readers of the opportunities — and
the challenges — of this unprecedented population change.

The opportunities include a young, growing workforce. More
minority businesses. A diversity of restaurants. More innovative ideas.

The challenges include a workforce changing from
college-educated whites to less-educated Hispanics and blacks. That
emerging
workforce is important. How much that workforce earns determines what
we’ll pay
in taxes. It determines what kinds of services we’ll get. It affects
what Social Security benefits will exist. It may determine whether such
trendy
businesses as Starbucks locate nearby.

Florida
schools already have a majority of minority students. They offer a
glimpse into
the looming problem in the disparity between high-school graduates and
college
graduates among Florida
residents 25 and older. Among non-Hispanic whites, more than 90 percent are high-school
graduates and nearly 30 percent have college degrees. More than 70
percent of Hispanics finished high school, but only 22 percent completed
college. Blacks
did better in high school — more than 76 percent graduated — but they did worst of all
in college, with 14
percent graduating.

Whites now give Florida
a well-educated workforce. They have
white-collar jobs, earning incomes that make for a good property and sales-tax
base. (Florida
has no income tax.) Many have health
insurance.

But if young blacks and Hispanics follow the pattern of their
parents, they will have less education as they replace whites. That means a
white-collar workforce replaced by a blue-collar workforce. That means lower incomes, a lower tax base and fewer people
with health insurance. Now who pays for all of that?

California and Texas face a similar
future — unless they quickly find a way to better educate their black and Hispanic
students.

The problem is particularly acute in California. Most recently, 54
percent of older Hispanics (ages 25 and older) have finished high
school in California.
But only 10 percent of them have a college degree. That compares with
the
nearly 40 percent of older, non-Hispanic whites. Two-thirds of
California’s future workers (those younger than 5 years old) are
Hispanic. Are high-tech companies going
to stay around with such a dramatic, looming change in the workforce?

We will need to tell our readers the incredible implications
all this has for them. We need to inform
them about the impact such a population change will have on their pocketbooks,
their community and their children.

That’s what newspapers do. We explain to people how the
world around them is changing and why.

This is the best story of our lives.

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