ON THE MONEY: Brown is the new white as population changes

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By John Grace

Contributing Columnist 

I will never forget my conversation with Kenny from Kentucky. Kenny believed that the primary problem in the U.S. is due to too many illegal immigrants coming into the country. 

As the Supreme Court strikes down college affirmative action programs and we prepare for the 2024 elections, it is clear that Kenny has a lot of company. 

In my effort to continue the discussion, as opposed to an altercation at the gym, I lowered my voice, slowed down my pace, and I whispered, “That’s not the problem, my friend. If I may be brutally honest, the problem is that white couples aren’t having sex like they used to. It looks to me that you folks have committed an unforced error.” 

Keeping my distance, I watched Kenny pause, his eyes got big, and he burst into laughter. As Joan Rivers noted, “When you can laugh at it, you can deal with it.”

According to the Brookings Institution, less than half of Americans in 2021 identified as white, compared to 76.8% of those 75 and older. Just 10 years ago, the respective white shares were 50.9% and 82.2%. Kenny failed to see that the white percentage of the population in 2021 is less than the 2010 share for all ages.

The U.S. white population will soon disappear forever. While the white population remains the largest racial group in the U.S., the real question may be how you describe “white.” 

We can see that the 2020 census results show fewer Americans checking off the “white” box compared to 2010. A sociologist at the Graduate Center of The City University of New York, Richard Alba, advised the Census Bureau about the data on ethnic and racial diversity, advancing the cause for broader definitions of whiteness when analyzing census statistics, mainly when more children are born to one parent who considers themselves as white and another parent who does not.

“Sometimes they think of themselves as mixed. Sometimes they think of themselves as members of a single group and often that group is white,” said Alba, who has written at NPR about how the descendants of Jewish, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox immigrants from Europe assimilated into mainstream U.S. society. “I don’t see how we can claim that white is a single thing at this point. Perhaps we should say white represents a spectrum more than it does a well-defined group.”

A great deal of the consternation about immigrants and refugees stems from the fear of the unknown, fear of new cultures, and fear of diversity. “And this fear is masked within false ‘facts’,” according to the Deseret News. 

Too many of us are suspicious that immigrants are taking over and replacing Americans. The truth is that the system makes it so hard for immigrants. 

With American life expectancy at 77, the leading age of Baby Boomers, we need all the people we can get. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid, Kenny! Immigrants contributed more than $330.7 billion in federal income taxes in 2019 and over $492 billion in total taxes, according to Boundless Immigration.

Undocumented workers pay billions of dollars every year to local, state, the federal government, and pay into Social Security and Medicare. As we studied the situation at Dent Research, we discovered immigrants pay for more than we spend on their education and health care. 

Contrary to what too many Americans think, “Immigration is a net positive,” according to Dent Research and the George W. Bush Presidential Center. “An average immigrant without a high school degree causes a lifetime positive net fiscal balance of $128,000 using the proper measure,” according to Forbes magazine last October.

Canada has a better idea. More than 1.3 million new immigrants settled permanently in Canada from 2016 to 2021, the highest number of recent immigrants recorded in a Canadian census. 

Immigrants account for 36% of physicians, 33% of business owners with paid staff, and 41% of engineers. Today, approximately one in four Canadians have come to the country as an immigrant, the highest among G7 nations. 

The government intends to bring in 1.5 million immigrants by 2025. Not everyone is delighted about welcoming so many newcomers. But Canada understands it’s a good bet on immigrants to fill the gap in its economy left by aging Baby Boomers leaving the workforce. 

As compared to 25% of Canadians who are immigrants, the U.S. is known colloquially as the world’s melting pot, with only 14% being immigrants. Canada has room to grow, with a population of just 38 million and one of the most immense land masses worldwide.

First, Kenny, whether you like it or not, understand it or don’t, the declining white population is an inside job. Second, the browning of America is very real, and we have room for you to board the bus ,too. 

As mixed-race and former President Barack Obama said in 2016, “If you stopped all immigration today, just by virtue of birth rates, this is going to be a browner country.” 

Third, it appears that the browning of the world is the natural order of things. Mother Nature and Father Time are the real trump cards. 

For example, it may be that a mixed-breed puppy has the advantage of having a much lower chance of being born with inherited congenital diseases than a purebred, thanks to the mating process naturally leaving out the defective genes. Finally, Kenny, brown is the new white and the brown people are winning.

John Grace is a registered representative with LPL Financial. His On the Money column runs monthly in The Wave. The opinions expressed here for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

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