The latest estimates, which gauge changes since the last census, are a reflection of an immigration wave that began four decades ago. The transformation of the country’s racial and ethnic makeup has gathered steam as the white population grows collectively older, especially compared with Hispanics.
The census has forecast that non-Hispanic whites will be outnumbered in the United States by 2042, and social scientists consider that current status among infants a harbinger of the change.
“This is a watershed moment,” said Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University who specializes in family issues. “It shows us how multicultural we’ve become.”
Although minorities make up about 37 percent of the U.S. population, the District and four states are majority minority — California, Hawaii, New Mexico and Texas.
Metropolitan Washington, where whites are in the minority, is far ahead of the curve. Among children younger than 5, there are more minorities than whites in virtually every jurisdiction except Arlington and Loudoun counties. Statewide, Virginia has just barely more white children under age 1 than minorities, but they are on the verge of falling below half.
One of the biggest factors in the demographic change is age. Whites are by far the oldest group. Their median age is over 42, so many are beyond their prime childbearing years. In contrast, the median age for Hispanics is under 28. Blacks and Asians have median ages in their early 30s.
As the number of white women in their 20s and 30s declined over the past decade, the number of white children dropped in most states, said Kenneth Johnson, a sociologist with the University of New Hampshire.
“The population is literally changing before us, with the youngest replacing the oldest,” he said. “This is the first tipping point. The kids are in the vanguard of the change that’s coming.”
Places that serve Hispanic mothers and children are experiencing a baby boom. Mary’s Center, which started in Adams Morgan in 1988 to provide immigrant women with prenatal care, opened its fifth center Wednesday in Adelphi.
“The people who migrate are the young and healthy people,” said Maria Gomez, founder of the center. “They are fertile, and that’s the cycle of life.”
Dozens of women who are pregnant or pushing strollers streamed into Mary’s Center on Georgia Avenue on Wednesday to see doctors or social workers. Fourteen toddlers listened to stories narrated in English and Spanish while their parents attended English lessons.