Our future began on Wednesday, February 5, 2003, when a UCLA doctor announced that for the first time since the late 1850s, Hispanic births accounted for more than half the births in California.The UCLA Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture released the news after a landmark study. "Of the 138,892 births from July to September 2001," the AP reported the next day, "69,672 of them -- 50.2 percent -- were Hispanic babies." "The long-anticipated Latino majority has arrived," said the center's director, David Hayes-Bautista. "In 2003, it is learning how to walk and will shortly learn to talk. They will be defining the American dream. It's in their hands." Whew. Just in time. Because the rest of us aren't doing the job.
According to Ed Schafer, senior demographer at SANDAG (the San Diego Association of Governments), the rest of San Diego's inhabitants, especially non-Hispanic whites, are not creating enough babies to keep the county up and running. If trends continue, fertility rates will drop below replacement levels. Against all the cries you hear about population explosion, some demographers say that most non-Hispanics have set their dials on oblivion, nonrecoverability -- let's use the E-word, extinction. Maybe that's a little too apocalyptic. But Schafer says that San Diego's non-Hispanic whites and African Americans have a fertility rate -- that is, a baby-production rate -- of between 1.7 and 1.8 children per female. "That is below replacement level. About 2.0 is replacement, so 1.8 is a pretty low fertility rate."
So what's happening in the bedrooms of non-Hispanic San Diego? Is everybody just too tired? Are Anglo Americans, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans all just California Dreaming? Partying too hard? Have they decided that their priorities are elsewhere, their careers too important, their lives too good, too fun, too challenging, too lonely, too busy, too self-absorbing, or maybe just too desperate, to include children?
You have to ask: with recent immigrants creating the largest families, has the task of making babies become the ultimate outsourcing of America? And as Anglos in San Diego head for minority status, what fears or irrational reactions could this prospect stir up? One-Worlders should be in Seventh Heaven, but the "don't rent to illegals" Escondido crowd must be seeing Armageddon. Or is it like the frog in slowly heating water: nobody notices?
"Between now and 2030 two things are going to happen," says SANDAG's Ed Schafer. "We're going to become much more nonwhite. Right now, non-Hispanic whites (thus named to distinguish them from Hispanic whites) make up 49 percent of the county, and Hispanics are 25 percent. By 2030, non-Hispanic whites will be down to 38 percent of the population, and Hispanics will be up to 38 percent."
And, nota bene, that will be older Anglos, with less power in the workplace but financial clout and political influence, and younger Hispanics, with the numbers on their side but probably not yet enough political heft. "Right now, 12 percent of San Diego County residents are 65 years or older. By 2030 it will be 21 percent," Schafer says. "It'll be like Florida is today. Old people will be predominantly white. The young, whose taxes will sustain retiring Baby Boomers, will be predominantly Hispanic. Politically, more will separate Anglo San Diego and non-Anglo San Diego."
Hispanics are already recognized by political power brokers as a force to be reckoned with. Currently, one in three of the nation's Latinos live in California. In San Diego County, National City hosts the highest concentration with 59 percent. Chula Vista is nearly 50 percent Latino; Imperial Beach, 40 percent; Vista, 39 percent; Escondido, 39 percent; San Marcos, 37 percent; Oceanside, 30 percent; and the city of San Diego, 25 percent. All of these areas showed big Hispanic growth in the 1990s.
In pockets like Lakeside, non-Hispanic whites still make up the majority, with 57,368 (in 2004) of the total 74,262 population. Hispanics number only 10,793. But by 2030, though non-Hispanic whites will remain the majority, their projected numbers, 63,451, will be a smaller percentage of the projected total population of 97,365, an increase of only 11 percent. Meantime, the Hispanic population will have jumped 93 percent to 20,837.
That doubling reflects the countywide trend over the next quarter-century. Non-Hispanic whites will lose about 1 percent. Whereas the non-Hispanic white-to-Hispanic ratio in the county now stands at 2-1, by 2030 it'll be 1-1.
How many kids are Hispanic families producing? Lots, if you look at the migrant community, especially newly arrived immigrants, largely from Mexico and Central America, who are producing 3.1 babies per female.
On the other hand, the overall Hispanic birthrate is also dropping. In 1995 the average was 2.9 births per female. By 2000 it was down to 2.5. And statewide, according to Dr. Hayes-Bautista, established (non-immigrant) Hispanic women are at the barely sustainable fertility level of 2.0. This drop, he says, is happening all over California, and in Mexico. Still, at the moment they are carrying the load for "replacing" the population, more than, say, Anglos.
But so what? Isn't even talking about these trends a form of racial profiling? These are, after all, the borderlands we all live in. Two civilizations meet here. Who could possibly object to a demographic shift or two? Especially when San Diego County's population, 2,824,259 and rising, is feeling no more than the first zephyrs of the winds of change. But read conservative columnist Mark Steyn's doom-laden polemics, including his book America Alone, for an indication of his fellow conservatives' fears -- fears that frame all talk about changing demographics. Steyn sees it as a coming change of ownership of the planet.
"Much of what we call the Western world will not survive the twenty-first century," he writes, "and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes, including many if not most European countries."
Why? Simple. The West, in general, is not having babies. " 'Replacement' fertility rate -- i.e., the number you need to maintain a merely stable population, not getting any bigger, not getting any smaller -- is 2.1 babies per woman. Some countries are well above that: the global fertility leader, Somalia, is 6.91, Niger 6.83, Afghanistan 6.78, Yemen 6.75.... Scroll way down to the bottom of the Hot One Hundred top breeders [that's how he puts it, folks] and you'll eventually find the United States, hovering just over replacement rate with 2.07 births per woman."