PUBLISHED: 10:14 EST, 20 September 2012 | UPDATED: 14:01 EST, 20 September 2012
- Evolving demographic a serious threat to American economy, experts warn
- Still worrying gulf between earnings of the two groups, census data shows
- Hispanic population increasing, but educational achievement still poor
- Older whites urged to help fund better schooling for other ethnic groups
- Expert: Failure to change inequality could lead to ‘economic fragmentation’
America’s future economy could be seriously damaged if it does not address a population increasingly dominated by ageing whites and youthful Hispanics, experts warned today.
Analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data shows there is still a worryingly gulf in wealth and educational achievement between the two groups.
With a growing, and mainly younger, demographic of Latin American ancestry and more workers of European extraction entering retirement, observers say this could be disastrous for its much-cherished American dream.
This could happen as soon as 2050, figures predict.
Economic threat: This graph reveals how there will be an increase in white retirees and a growing population of young Hispanics over the next 40 years and beyond
Daniel Lichter, the president of the Population Association of America, said any failure to change racial and ethnic inequality could lead to a new ‘cultural and economic fragmentation’.
According to the Bureau data analysed for New Scientist magazine, Hispanics earn less on average than whites and also enjoy substantially smaller sums when it comes to accumulated household wealth.
If the ethnic group’s younger generation are to help take the country forward, education will be of paramount importance.
But the figures show there has been no narrowing of the gap between Hispanics and whites in their 20s with college degrees since the mid-1990s.
Uncertain future: The disparities are plain to see in education and household wealth which two main drivers of economic stability
Little change: The gap in educational performance between white and Hispanic students remains a problem
Lichter, who works at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, said: ‘There’s a lot of built-in demographic momentum for future poverty and inequality.’
As a technological powerhouse and home to organisations like NASA, the U.S. will in particular need a sharp rise in Hispanic students taking subjects like math and science if it is to remain a global force.
Ominously, the benchmarks recommended by the National Academies for economic success require a ‘tripling or quadrupling’ of take-up in these fields.
In order to bridge these educational differences, some feel it will need a willingness on the part of the older whites to pay for better schooling for other ethnic groups.
Edging up: The percentage of total births in America has included more and more minorities over the past decade
In flux: A bar chart showing the population projections for the U.S. over the next 40 years. Some now believe ethnic minorities will outnumber whites before 2040
But as no-one like to pay taxes when they don’t see the benefit, experts believe politicians may have to convince them it is beneficial for their own future.
Dowell Myers, a demographer at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, argues that retirees are dependent on a wealthy workforce to fund their benefits and to be able to buy their homes.
But Richard Alba, a sociologist at the City University of New York, doesn’t believe the situation is that bad and will be eased by the intermarriages of Hispanics and whites.
He also believes universities will take more steps to enrol Hispanic students.
Earlier this year, U.S. Census Bureau figures revealed that, for the first time in its modern history, most of the babies being born in America there are non-white.
White children aged under one are outnumbered by those from ethnic minorities including blacks, Hispanics, Asians and mixed race.
Of the four million children born in the US in the 12 months to July 2011, 50.4 per cent were from ethnic minorities. That compares with 37 per cent in 1990.