Updated American demographics: becoming an older, more diverse nation

Demographics are a key tool in the futurist’s toolbox.  They represents trends that tend to be more durable than most others.  For education, demographic trends have a powerful influence, shaping the populations we serve in many ways.

For instance, consider some new research.  The American people continue to get older and more racially diverse, according to the latest US Census data.  This isn’t shocking news, especially for those of us tracking demographics, but it remains useful – more so, as these trends deepen.

About age and aging: “[r]esidents age 65 and over grew from 35.0 million in 2000, to 49.2 million in 2016, accounting for 12.4 percent and 15.2 percent of the total population, respectively.”

Two-thirds (66.7 percent) of the nation’s counties experienced an increase in median age last year…

Between 2000 and 2016, 95.2 percent of all counties experienced increases in median age…

This is happening for a variety of reasons, many of which we should celebrate.  Medical science has been expanding its powers to preserve and prolong life.  Public health has had many successes.  And increasing educational attainment tends to correlate with women having fewer children.  We can easily see these as signs of civilizational progress.

It’s always useful to see how differential aging plays out across the 50 states:

Median age by counties.

Median age by counties.

Think about the different cities represented, for example.  Consider how K-12 populations change, and how colleges serving traditional-age undergraduates have to change their outreach strategies.

Race and ethnicity: American continues to become more diverse – i.e., the white/caucasian proportion continues to shrink, while others grow.

To show this, I’ll take the report’s bullet points, then rearrange them by population size in descending order:

The white population grew by 0.5 percent to 256.0 million.

The non-Hispanic white alone population grew by 5,000 people, remaining at 198.0 million.

The Hispanic population (including all races) grew by 2.0 percent to 57.5 million.

The black or African-American population grew by 1.2 percent to 46.8 million.

The Asian population grew by 3.0 percent to 21.4 million.

The American Indian and Alaska Native population grew by 1.4 percent to 6.7 million.

The Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population grew by 2.1 percent to 1.5 million.  [emphases added for clarity]

The white population (depending on how you measure it) continues to be the largest group.  Hispanics are the second-largest, followed by black and Asian demographics.

Growth patterns are also fascinating.  Now I’ll use the report’s text, but re-order it from fastest to slowest growing populations, adding different emphases:

The Asian population grew by 3.0 percent to 21.4 million.

The Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population grew by 2.1 percent to 1.5 million.

The Hispanic population (including all races) grew by 2.0 percent to 57.5 million.]

The American Indian and Alaska Native population grew by 1.4 percent to 6.7 million.

The black or African-American population grew by 1.2 percent to 46.8 million.

The white population grew by 0.5 percent to 256.0 million…. [and] [d]eaths continued to exceed births for the non-Hispanic white alone group.

Here the Asian population takes the demographic lead, followed by the relatively tiny Hawaiian and Pacific Islander groups, then the Hispanic population.

Did you catch this further instance of contemporary interest in problematizing traditional identity categories?  “Those who identified as being of two or more races grew by 3.0 percent to 8.5 million.”

What do these trends suggest about the future of education?  As I and others have said before, they mean schools need to adjust to serving a racially more diverse population.  This has many implications, including professional development for faculty, the addition or expansion of supportive staff positions (and hence more “administrative bloat”), changes to recruiting and development, and, for public institutions, recalibrating relationships with state governments.

As for age, institutions serving traditional age undergraduates will find recruitment and retention more challenging, and inter-campus collaboration more difficult.  They will keep trying strategies to outflank this problem, from building up a larger online presence (attracting 18-21-year-olds from anywhere on Earth) to more aggressively marketing internationally to growing programs for adult learners.  This changes the 20th-century model of, say, a liberal arts college, or regional state school.

One caveat: these trends can vary regionally a great deal, of course.  Ethnic mixes differ by state and county, as do age patterns.

How are you seeing these demographics playing out in your work and environment?

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One Response to Updated American demographics: becoming an older, more diverse nation

  1. VanessaVaile says:

    Reblogged this on As the Adjunctiverse Turns and commented:
    What do these trends suggest about the future of academic and especially adjunct labor? Of grad school and the college teaching labor pool?

    Like

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