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June 13, 2013 3:09 PM Honky Blues

By Ed Kilgore

In case you missed it, the Census Bureau had some really bad news for the Republican Party yesterday:

More white people died in the United States last year than were born, a surprising slump coming more than a decade before the Census Bureau says that the ranks of white Americans will likely drop with every passing year.
Population estimates for 2012 released Thursday show what’s known as a natural decrease — a straightforward calculation of births minus deaths — of about 12,400 people among the nation’s 198 million non-Hispanic whites.
Although the percentage is small, several demographers said they are not aware of another time in U.S. history — not even during the Depression or wars — when there was such shrinkage among the dominant racial group. No other group showed a similar falloff.

Somewhat ironically, the non-Hispanic white population avoided an actual decrease thanks to immigration:

The decrease was offset by 188,000 white immigrants, most from Canada and Germany but also from Russia and Saudi Arabia.

What surprised demographers was that an unusually large drop in white births that wasn’t expected to hit until 2025. But get used to it:

“We’re jumping the gun on a long, slow decline of our white population, which is going to characterize this century,” said William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution. “It’s a bookend from the last century, when whites helped us grow. Now it’s minorities who are going to make the contributions to our economic and population growth over the next 50 years.”

And if you’re aging and white, you might want to thank a person of color for your upcoming retirement security:

Frey said the natural decrease in whites suggests that aging whites will increasingly come to rely on the younger, mainly minority population to underwrite social programs that will sustain them. “Last year, we saw the majority of babies are minorities,” he said. “Now we see more whites are dying than being born. Together, that tells us a lot about where we’re going as a country.”

That means, among other things, that the long-term project of the Republican Party to convince younger people they should support major reductions in retirement programs may backfire on “the base.”

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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