In what the Brookings Institution calls a “momentous” sign of the country’s increasing diversity, white children for the first time do not comprise a majority of 3-year-olds. According to analysis by Brookings demographer William Frey, 49.9% of the nation’s 3-year-olds are white. Among 3-year-olds enrolled in nursery school, preschool and kindergarten, the majority are still white. However, in eight states and the District of Columbia, a majority of children enrolled in nursery school, preschool and kindergarten are non-white, up from six states in 2000. Overall, 41% of the nation’s 3-year-olds and 65% of 4-year-olds are enrolled.
Frey bases his analysis — Growth in School-Age Minority Population Signals Demographic Tipping Point – on the latest annual school enrollment data from the U.S. Census Bureau. “We are on our way to having a majority of minority students in U.S. schools,” Frey tells The New York Times.
“The gap between the country’s diverse young population and its older white one is raising difficult issues for policy makers, who are trying to balance the growing costs associated with the aging white population with the need for financing to educate an increasingly diverse youth,” the Times reports. “Education experts who have studied the issue say the United States is lagging behind in educating minority students. The past big wave of immigrants took more than a generation to integrate into the economy through education, they say, a delay the country can ill afford in today’s age of global competitiveness.”
In Hawaii, New Mexico, California, Texas, Nevada, Mississippi, Arizona, Florida and the District of Columbia, non-white children are a majority of those enrolled in nursery school, preschool and kindergarten, according to a Brookings table. In another nine states, more than 40% of enrollment is Hispanic, black, Asian or other races. These nine states are Maryland, Georgia, Louisiana, New York, New Jersey, Alaska, Illinois, South Carolina and Delaware. In Massachusetts, non-white children comprise 28% of enrollment, up from 24% in 2000.
More detailed information on the nation’s changing demographics will come as the Census Bureau continues to release state-by-state data from the 2010 decennial count. So far, the bureau has released 2010 census data nine states; Massachusetts is not among them.