White deaths outnumber births in majority of US states, report finds

White deaths outnumber births in majority of US states, report finds
Deaths now outnumber births among white people in more than half the states in the US, according to a new report, raising questions about how long the country's whites will remain a majority of the population.

A report published by the Applied Population Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that whites are dying faster than they are being born in 26 states, up from 17 states only two years earlier. The sudden spike in the death-to-birth ratio for whites across the country seems to challenge conservative-sounding projections made by the Census Bureau, which has estimated that whites could drop below 50 percent of the population around 2045.

The startling figures were likely exacerbated by plummeting fertility rates after the 2008 financial crisis, coupled with rising mortality rates for whites driven in part by drug overdoses, the report said.

The results of the report – which examined the period from 1999 to 2016 using data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the federal agency that tracks births and deaths – have surprised even its authors.

"It's happening a lot faster than we thought," noted Rogelio Saenz, a demographer at the University of Texas at San Antonio and a co-author of the report. He said he was so shocked by the report's findings that at first he thought there had been some kind of mistake.

The findings support population estimates recently released by the Census Bureau, which showed an overall decline in the white population for the first time. The drop was small however, at just 0.02 percent, or 31,516 people.

While it appears that the United States is destined to be a more multi-ethnic nation, it's still unclear how the transformation will affect society – especially politics.

As the New York Times observed, of the states where deaths now exceed births for whites, 13 voted for Donald Trump and 13 voted for Hillary Clinton. And, according to analysts, it's far from certain that a multi-ethnic majority would usher in more progressive politics – or that a white minority would support the same kind of politics that it does today as the majority.

"People say demographics is destiny and there'll be more people of color – all that is true," said Jennifer Richeson, a social psychologist at Yale University. "But they also say the US is going to become more progressive, and we don't know that. We should not assume that white moderates and liberals will maintain current political allegiances, nor should we expect that the so-called nonwhite group is going to work in any kind of coalition."

Although the report's findings were surprising, its authors noted that the United States was in better shape than many European nations facing overall population decreases. "In Europe, overall deaths exceed births in 17 countries. Compared to the United States, European fertility rates are lower, the population is considerably older, and there are fewer women of childbearing age. Thus, the immediate challenges European nations face in dealing with widespread natural decrease may provide important lessons to US policymakers as they prepare to address this issue in the future."

White deaths outnumbered births in the United States for the first time in 2012. However, the decrease of about 12,400 whites was offset by 188,000 white immigrants. At the time, the Census Bureau had predicted that a noticeable drop in births compared with deaths for whites would begin happening with regularity in 2025.

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