Even with the inflooding of illegal aliens — who have a higher fertility rate than resident Americans — the share of children in the U.S. is at a record low.
This has implications for the future. For one, how will a shrinking work force support an expanding elderly population with their Social Security checks and Medicare coverage, when the government is already straining to cut spending for health care, pensions and much else.
For another, there is a racial component in fertility rates. Simply put, whites are not reproducing. Already, white kids are now the numerical minority in some counties in the United States.
Hope Yen reports for the Associated Press, July 12, 2011, that the latest 2010 census data show that children of immigrants make up one in four people under 18, and are now the fastest-growing segment of the nation’s youth, an indication that both legal and illegal immigrants as well as minority births are lifting the nation’s population.
But the share of children in the U.S. is falling from the previous low of 26% in 1990 to the current 24%. The share is projected to slip further, to 23% by 2050, even as the percentage of people 65 and older is expected to jump from 13% today to roughly 20% by 2050 due to the aging of baby boomers and beyond.
In 1900, the share of children reached as high as 40%, whereas the share of seniors 65 and older was only 4%. The percentage of children in subsequent decades held above 30% until 1980, when it fell to 28% amid declining birth rates, mostly among whites.
“There are important implications for the future of the U.S. because the increasing costs of providing for an older population may reduce the public resources that go to children,” said William P. O’Hare, a senior consultant with the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, a children’s advocacy group.
Pointing to signs that many children are already struggling, O’Hare added: “These raise urgent questions about whether today’s children will have the resources they need to help care for America’s growing elderly population.”
The numbers are largely based on an analysis by the Population Reference Bureau, a nonprofit research group in Washington that studies global and U.S. trends. In some cases, the data were supplemented with additional census projections on U.S. growth from 2010-2050 as well as figures compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count project.
Nationwide, the number of children has grown by 1.9 million, or 2.6%, since 2000. That represents a drop-off from the previous decade, when even higher rates of immigration by Latinos — who are more likely than some other ethnic groups to have large families — helped increase the number of children by 8.7 million, or 13.7%.
The slowing population growth in the U.S. mirrors to a lesser extent the situation in other developed nations, including Russia, Japan and France which are seeing reduced growth or population losses due to declining birth rates and limited immigration. The combined population of more-developed countries other than the U.S. is projected to decline beginning in 2016, raising the prospect of prolonged budget crises as the number of working-age citizens diminish, pension costs rise and tax revenues fall.
Japan, France, Germany and Canada each have lower shares of children under age 15, ranging between 13% in Japan and 17% in Canada, while nations in Africa and the Middle East have some of the largest shares, including 50% in Niger and 46% in Afghanistan, according to figures from the United Nations Population Division.
In the U.S., the share of children under 15 is 20%.
Depending on future rates of immigration, the U.S. population is estimated to continue growing through at least 2050. In a hypothetical situation in which all immigration — both legal and illegal — immediately stopped, the U.S. could lose population beginning in 2048, according to the latest census projections.
Since 2000, the increase for children in the U.S. — 1.9 million — has been due to racial and ethnic minorities. Currently, 54% of the nation’s children are non-Hispanic white, compared to 23% Hispanic, 14% black, and 4% Asian.
Over the past decade, the number of non-Hispanic white children declined 10% to 39.7 million, while the number of minority children rose 22% to 34.5 million. Hispanics, as well as Asians, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and multiracial children represented all of the growth. The number of black and American Indian children declined.
In nearly one of five U.S. counties, minority children already outnumber white children. “The ‘minority youth bulge’ is being driven primarily by children in immigrant families,” said Mark Mather, associate vice president of the Population Reference Bureau who co-wrote a report released Tuesday on the subject. “They are transforming America’s schools, and in a generation they will transform the racial-ethnic composition of the U.S. work force.”
Census Bureau: www.census.gov
Population Reference Bureau: http://www.prb.org/
Kids Count: www.kidscount.org