From Revolutionary days through 2004, a majority of Americans fit two criteria. They were white. And they concluded their education before obtaining a four-year college degree. In the American mosaic, that vast white working class was the largest piece, from the yeoman farmer to the welder on the assembly line. Even as late as the 1990 census, whites without a college degree represented more than three-fifths of adults.
But as the country grew more diverse and better educated, the white working-class share of the adult population slipped to just under 50 percent in the Census Bureau’s 2005 American Community Survey. That number has since fallen below 48 percent.
Still, amid all of this change, whites without a four-year college degree remain the largest demographic bloc in the workforce. College-educated whites make up about one-fifth of the adult population, while minorities account for a little under one-third. The picture is changing, but whites who have not completed college remain the backbone of many, if not most, communities and workplaces across the country.
They are also, polls consistently tell us, the most pessimistic and alienated group in American society.
The latest measure of this discontent came in a thoughtful national survey on economic opportunity released last week by the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Economic Mobility Project. If numbers could scream, they would probably sound like the poll’s results among working-class whites.
African Americans and Hispanics, along with parents, are also more optimistic about the next generation. Nearly half of African American (47%) and 45% of Hispanic parents believe it will be “easier” for their children to “move up the income ladder.” Only 28% of whites feel the same way. We ask Americans with no children a similar question about “young people” in general. Here too, minorities are more likely to be optimistic, with 20% of African Americans and 19% of Hispanics foreseeing a positive future, contrasted with only 13% of whites.
Growing Hispanic numbers have political implications. From the Census:
The U.S. Census Bureau today released a 2010 Census brief on the nation's Hispanic population, which shows the Hispanic population increased by 15.2 million between 2000 and 2010 and accounted for more than half of the total U.S. population increase of 27.3 million. Between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population grew by 43 percent, or four times the nation's 9.7 percent growth rate. The Hispanic Population: 2010 brief looks at an important part of our nation's changing ethnic diversity with a particular focus on Hispanic origin groups, such as Mexican, Dominican and Cuban.Mark Hugo Lopez writes at the Pew Research Center:
Hispanics of Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban origin or descent remain the nation's three largest Hispanic country-of-origin groups, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. However, while the relative position of these three groups has remained unchanged since 2000, the next four Hispanic sub-groups grew faster during the decade.
Hispanics of Salvadoran origin, the fourth largest Hispanic country-of-origin group, grew by 152% since 2000. The Dominican population grew by 85%, the Guatemalan population by 180% and the Colombian population by 93%. Meanwhile, the Cuban and Puerto Rican populations grow more slowly -- 44% and 36% respectively.