August 18, 2014

Dept. of Ed. projects public schools will be ‘majority-minority’ this fall

Teacher Haiti Johnson helps her first grade students with learning about the rhomboid shape during class.  Credit: Getty Images
Teacher Haiti Johnson helps her first grade students with learning about the rhomboid shape during class. Credit: Getty Images

A milestone is expected to be reached this fall when minorities outnumber whites among the nation’s public school students for the first time, U.S. Department of Education projections show. This is due largely to fast growth in the number of Hispanic and Asian school-age children born in the U.S., according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data.

A steady demographic change over the years has resulted in a decline in the number of whites in classrooms even as the total number of public school students has increased. In 1997, the U.S. had 46.1 million public school students, of which 63.4% were white. While whites will still outnumber any single racial or ethnic group this fall, their overall share of the nation’s 50 million public school students is projected to drop to 49.7%. Since 1997, the number of white students has declined by 15%, falling from 29.2 million to 24.9 million in 2014.

Racial demographics of U.S. public school students over time

While the number of white students has declined, there have been large enrollment increases of Hispanics and Asians, two groups that have seen overall population growth. Since 1997, the number of Hispanic students nearly doubled to 12.9 million, and the number of Asians jumped 46% to 2.6 million. The number of black students expected in schools this fall, 7.7 million, has been relatively steady during this time.

Most of the growth is driven by U.S.-born Hispanic and Asian children rather than immigrant children. The number of Hispanic and Asian school-age children born in the U.S. has boomed, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data. The difference in growth between U.S.-born and immigrant children is most dramatic among Hispanics. From 1997 to 2013, the number of Hispanic children ages 5 to 17 born in the U.S. jumped 98%, while the group’s immigrant population of the same age declined by 26%. Among Asians of this age, the number of U.S.-born Asians increased 50% during this time, and the immigrant population increased a more modest 9%.

Young children are on the leading edge of the demographic shift. Minorities this fall are expected to make up 51% of public school students in grades pre-K through 8th grade and 48% of those in grades 9 through 12. Young Latinos alone accounted for at least 20% of public school kindergartners in 17 states, up from just eight states in 2000.

The composition of the private school student population is markedly different. In 2009, about seven-in-ten (73%) of the estimated 4.7 million children enrolled in kindergarten through grade 12 in private schools were white.

While those born in the U.S. are driving growth, immigrants are still having an impact in the classroom. Across the country, school districts have had to boost English language instruction for students who are not native speakers. This is because seven-in-ten school-age children who are immigrants or have immigrant parents speak another language other than English at home and will likely be provided English language instruction upon entering school.

It’s not certain that minorities will become the majority this fall in the nation’s classrooms because government enrollment data — as opposed to enrollment projections — won’t be available for a few years. Altered projections can throw off landmark demographic moments. This summer, for example, the Census Bureau reversed an estimate from 2012 that declared minority births had exceeded white births in the United States. Due to a sharp decline in U.S. births after the Great Recession, white births today still slightly exceed minority births.

Topics: Education, Race and Ethnicity

  1. is a Writer/Editor at the Pew Research Center's Hispanic Trends Project.

  2. Photo of Richard Fry

    is a Senior Research Associate at the Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project.

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11 Comments

  1. thinkingtexan3 days ago

    This double-talk (“majority-minority”) is a clear but deplorable reflection of how educators are either incapable of, or have deliberately abandoned, cogent communication in favor of prosecuting a political agenda. When *any* group has greater than 50% of the population it is no longer a “minority”. Pundits, activists and writers only hold on instinctively to that term because of its importance in invoking special consideration and privilege. Will my great grandchildren still be suffering the burden of being white, when that is only maybe 30% of the population, for reasons that have nothing to do with them ?

    Reply
  2. Barbara Griffith3 weeks ago

    I can certainly see why more and more white parents are deciding on sending their kids to private schools. The time and effort the teachers have to use trying to teach kids that don’t speak a word of English at home is frustrating especially with the track record of these kids from Mexico with parents at home with no or very little education. The only way the white kids could get their education is going to a private school or home schooled. I don’t blame the parents one bit. Then on top of that when the English learners make it to high school if they do there is a 50% drop out rate at least in the LA school districts.

    Reply
  3. a.m. munoz3 weeks ago

    Rob, what makes you think the whites are not going to continue to pay taxes for public schools?
    Who is going to change that? It’s just the way government wants it and planned.

    Reply
  4. Rob3 weeks ago

    We have known for years that people give to charities because the money can then benefit “people like them.” Hence taxes for the same purposes are reduced – the “undeserving poor” (quoting My Fair Lady) might get them. So with more and more non-whites in public schools, how long before they cease to exist? Whites will not want to both pay school taxes AND tuition for all white private schools.

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  5. a.m. munoz3 weeks ago

    as we see more Latino students in the public schools, many classes are being deleted especially in High schools. Classes that would help students go out and get some kind of a job if unable to go to college. The grammar schools are cutting out play areas and exercise areas for the children as well and crowding more and more students into one school to the point of transporting children from a neighboring town. (same school district)

    But check out the pay scales for administration.

    Reply
  6. Jane Horton-Leasman4 weeks ago

    Now, don’t you wonder why? Do you think anyone in their right mind wants their child going to school to learn: ETHNIC STUDIES??? How about teaching instead of societal change???

    Reply
    1. Joe Stack4 weeks ago

      To be fair Jane..the fact you hyphenated your name instead of the taking your husband’s name as per tradition is part of the problem you were just complaining about..

      Reply
  7. Maria Rodriguez4 weeks ago

    If you look at the Census you would see that many states still have a vast majority white population, some as high as 95 percent, and few minorities. And I bet no news media picked up that bit of information that there was a mistake which asserts that white births still exceed non-white births. And I bet that most of the public schools are still segregated by race. All this talk about minorities taking over is leading to hateful phobia, an increase in the ownership of guns by white people, and terrorized police and public officials who keep trying to take young minority men off the streets and place them in jails. Please, all these stats are local or regional. White people still make up about 72% of the US population!

    Reply
    1. frustrated2 weeks ago

      Where do you get off thinking police want to round up young black males and put them in jail? This hateful, ignorant speech is what divides people. The cold hard facts are that fatherless males with no guidance on what being a responsible man means end up in trouble. It happens to be that it is an epidemic in the black community. NOT because they are black, because they lack guidance. That is what creates a disproportionate number of black males in the prison system. Not rogue police officers. The role of the police is to be reactive, not proactive. That is the mother and father’s responsibility. Society needs to demand better for these young men. Not with handouts or excuses but demanding fathers be involved and mothers allow the fathers to be involved in their sons’ lives. It will not fix itself overnight. But if we keep doing what we have always done we will get what we have always gotten…a blight in the of fatherless young men in our community.

      Reply
  8. Packard Day4 weeks ago

    Is this a natural occurrence caused by a evolutionary shift in the general population? Or are there just more wealthy White & Asian families who are simply following the lead of Presidents Clinton and Obama by choosing to enroll their own kids in private schools?

    Reply
    1. devon devon4 weeks ago

      Note that only about 9 percent of American students are enrolled in private school
      and 3 percent are home-schooled. Therefore, the change is a result of the minority population growing at a faster rate than the white population.

      Reply