Toddlers Might Be Taking Over Your State

The under-5 population is now majority non-white for the first time, the Census Bureau announced Thursday.

National Journal

From now until 2030, the under-5 population will continue to grow as a share of the population. It will also continue to become more diverse, according to data shared with Next America by the Urban Institute's Mapping America's Futures project. Roll over this map to see how your state's under-5 population is projected to grow and change by 2030.

The Fine Print

Between 2010 and 2030, MAF forecasts that the overall 0-4 population will grow as a share of the population by six percent. Within that age group, the share of white and black children will decrease by 13 percent and 5 percent, respectively. The shares for Latino and "other" children—Asian, Native American, multiracial, and all preschoolers with other racial or ethnic backgrounds—increase significantly.

By 2030, the non-Hispanic white under-5 population will only increase in three states—Idaho, Maryland, Virginia—plus Washington, D.C. The preschool populations for black children will increase in 15 states, 37 will see an increase in their Latino populations, and all but West Virginia will see growth in preschoolers who fall under the "other" category.

MAF projects that the Latino under-5 population will increase from 5.5 million in 2010 to 6.9 million in 2030. While more states will see growth in the "other" category, the Latino preschool growth is much greater in absolute terms and is the primary catalyst for the under-5 population growth nationwide.

In the 10 states with the most growth in their under-5 population, only two (Maryland and Virginia) will see increases in their white preschool populations. Four will see increases in their black 0-4 populations—in Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and Georgia. All but two (Alaska and Hawaii) will see increases in Latino preschoolers. All 10 will see increases in the "other" category.

There is incredible variation in those shifts, state by state. The analysis suggests a decline of more than 10 percent in the under-5 population in states such as Louisiana, Mississippi, Maine, Vermont, West Virginia, Wyoming, and North Dakota. States such as Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia will likely see an increase of between 20 and 40 percent.

The Urban Institute sees these demographic shifts as a "great opportunity" for the economic prosperity and future of the American economy.

"I've felt for a while like there's too little dialogue on what's happening in the future in the United States, a bit too much of making policy through the rearview mirror," says Rolf Pendall, the director of both the MAF project and the institute's Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center. "So Mapping America's Future is a platform that is supposed to engage people in thinking about how the country is changing and might change in the next 20 years."

From the Experts

Next America spoke with some of the MAF's researchers—Pendall, Nan Astone, and Steven Martin—to discuss the impact of the change, the variation among states, and the opportunities in crafting smart policy for the future. The transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

On the responsibility of local leaders to prepare for the future by investing in children:

Nan Astone: The aging in America get a lot of attention and for good reason. But for some of the places that are growing the most overall, we're seeing a pretty large increase in the growth of young children. That has huge implications for local infrastructure. One of the things that our colleagues have talked about year to year in a volume called Kids' Share is that the federal government spends a huge amount of money on seniors and a much smaller percentage on children. But local areas spend huge amounts on kids, especially through the K-12 system and other things, too. There's a real issue in my mind as to whether some of these places like Atlanta, and Houston, and the Carolinas are really prepared for the onslaught of kids that are going to show up in schools. There have been some articles about Las Vegas already. The geographic diversity in how much the children's population is growing is important because it's local areas that are going to have manage the fallout from that.

On how states might or might not take advantage of these new opportunities:

Steven Martin: States are going to have very different stories with respect to children and inequality, but it's very uncertain what those stories will be. One could have an optimistic or a pessimistic take on the future with respect to each of those. States that are decreasing are states that have been primarily white or primarily black and have little increase in Hispanic or other immigration, and will also have some out-migration of whites and blacks. For example, Mississippi and West Virginia are areas that will have decreasing populations of children. That means that resources per child could well increase so there's a possibility there will be a way to have more resources per child directed in these areas. However, if these areas are economically stressed, it could also be that those children end up getting missed and circumstances in those states get worse. On the other hand, the areas that are increasing—the Mountain West, Texas, and the Atlantic East—will have lots of economic responsibilities they will be taking on for children. They also could have the economic resources to provide for them but it's not yet certain that that will be taking place.

On the economic argument for why cities need to educate all children:

Pendall: Because Americans have stopped moving around to the extent that they used to 20-25 years ago and because the population in their 20s and 30s is at a high-water mark right now, the population we have living in certain places now is the population that we're going to have in those places. Places like Houston and Atlanta aren't going to be able to count on a pipeline of well-educated people from the Midwest and the Northeast; they really need to do a lot more to nurture and bring up the people who already live there. Even with immigration from abroad, it is a decreasing percent of the total population of the United States every year, even if the numbers keep being a million or so a year, which it isn't quite yet. That's not a message we've gotten across entirely yet; we're going to keep on working on that—the power and value of growing your own, taking care of the people who already live in your community, and not just thinking about what we can do to get millennials to move to our towns so we have a better economic future.

On the supposed grey-brown divide of a white, aging America and young, nonwhite America:

Pendall: The more talk there is about the grey-brown divide, the more the grey-brown divide becomes a reality. I don't like to dwell on it. I don't like to see it become a self-fulfilling prophecy. There are alternate narratives and examples that are in fact empirically based of places in the United States and issues around which generations can come together despite ethnic differences. I would like to think that this is one of them, that for people who share a future in Phoenix or Las Vegas that they say "We are in fact in this together." It helps us to look locally.

Astone: The grey-brown situation is actually very geographically various. Many of the places that have the biggest concentration of nonwhite children actually have a pretty large concentration of nonwhite adults, not coincidentally, and also have a younger population in general. In a lot of the places, like Maine, there are a lot of old people and those people are mostly white, so most of the kids up there are white, too. What's true at the national level is actually very, very different throughout the country. The grey-brown divide, to the extent that it exists, is very geographically variable.

Andrew McGill contributed to this article