This fall marks the first time minorities will outnumber whites in U.S. public schools, according to projections from the U.S. Department of Education.
From Pew Research’s analysis:
A steady demographic change over the years has resulted in a decline in the number of whites in classrooms even as the total number of public school students has increased. In 1997, the U.S. had 46.1 million public school students, of which 63.4% were white. While whites will still outnumber any single racial or ethnic group this fall, their overall share of the nation’s 50 million public school students is projected to drop to 49.7%. Since 1997, the number of white students has declined by 15%, falling from 29.2 million to 24.9 million in 2014.
While this doesn’t include private schools or those home schooled, it does provide a glimpse at the changing face of demographics in America.
The shift is driven by younger minority children, who make up 51 percent of public school students in 8th grade and below. In 9th through 12th grade, they are 48 percent.
This trend can be demonstrated by examining the number of states where Hispanic kindergarteners constitute at least 20 percent of all students.
In 2000, only eight states, primarily in the Southwest, had that many Hispanic students in kindergarten. That number jumped to 17 states and spread up the West coast, into the Midwest and the Northeast.
In the upcoming issue of Facts & Trends, whose cover story is on multiethnic churches, senior writer Bob Smietana examines the research and talks to experts about what these demographic shifts mean for the American church.
Consider this: In 1960, 85 percent of Americans were white, about 11 percent were black, with other minority groups making up the remaining 4 percent. Today, only 63 percent of Americans are white.
By 2043, the Census Department predicts no one ethnic group will hold a majority. By 2060, an estimated 57 percent of Americans will be people of color.
For American Christians, the changes have been even more dramatic—at least on a demographic level. Among older Americans (those over 65), 7 out of 10 are white Christians. By contrast, only about a quarter of younger (18- to 29-year-olds) Americans are white Christians. More than half of younger Christians are people of color, according to the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI).
Yet few American congregations reflect these changes.
A 2013 national survey of 1,007 Protestant senior pastors found more than 8 in 10 (85 percent) believe every church should strive for racial diversity. But few pastors have diverse flocks. Most (86 percent) of their congregations are predominately one racial or ethnic group.
“Everybody wants diversity,” says Ed Stetzer, executive director of Lifeway Research. “But many don’t want to be around people who are different.”
For more information, look for the article “The Changing Face of the American Church” in the next issue of Facts & Trends. If you are not subscribed to our print magazine, click here to have the magazine delivered to your home or church for free.