In 1998, President Bill Clinton startled an audience of students by making this statement:
“In a little more than 50 years there will be no majority race in the United States. No other nation in history has gone through demographic change of this magnitude in so short a time.”
While few people in 1998 were aware of the Census Bureau projection cited by the president, the growing diversity of the U.S. population has received substantial attention since then. Census projections released and widely covered by the media since the 1998 Clinton speech also predict whites will become a minority during the 2040s. Public and private sector leaders have reacted by increasingly focusing on diversity within their organizations.
Source: 2017 American Community Survey, Census Bureau Race/Ethnicity Projections
Yet, what is less commonly known is that the same Census projections that predict Americans who identify as white alone will become a minority during the 2040s also predict that about 75 percent of the U.S. population is expected to mark the box next to White on their Census form, either alone or in combination with another race or ethnicity. That percentage is fairly close to the share of the U.S. population currently identifying as white, and is about the same share as in the first census in 1790. The fact that the same Census projection can show whites becoming a minority by 2040 and also show the percent of Americans who identify as white remaining close to levels counted in previous censuses is an indicator of how the race categories we use are struggling to keep up with our changing population.
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