For the first time in U.S. history, when public school students return to the classroom this fall, a majority of them will not be non-Hispanic whites, according to an analysis by the Associated Press.
The news is derived from data kept by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a division of the federal Department of Education.
Driving the change is the rapid increase in the U.S. Hispanic population, which has surpassed 53 million in recent years, compared to less than 10 million in 1970. High volumes of immigration and higher birthrates for Hispanics in the U.S. have created a recipe for a rapid rise in the number of Hispanics present in the school system.
About one quarter of students this fall are of Hispanic origin (compared to 17 percent of the overall population), while fifteen percent are black, five percent are Asian or Pacific Islanders, and the remaining non-white students are Native American or biracial.
The decline in non-Hispanic whites is expected to continue. By 2023, according to the NCES’s data, they will be only 45 percent of public school students, and there are currently no signs the trend will halt there.
White students are not merely shrinking in relative terms but also in raw numbers. This year, the NCES estimates 24.7 million white students will be in school. Next year, that total will dip to 24.5 million, and by 2019 it will be 23.8 million.
Whites are not yet a minority of all school-age children, however. Millions of American schoolchildren attend private schools (which aren’t covered by NCES data), and these schoolchildren are more likely to be white.
The figures are not equally distributed across the U.S. In the West and South, white students have been a minority for some time, while in the Midwest, whites remain a strong majority.