The U.S. Census Bureau had been predicting it, but it happened sooner than expected: The number of Hispanic children has surpassed the number of non-Hispanic black children, making Hispanics the largest minority group among children younger than 18.
As of July 1, an estimated 10.5 million Hispanic children were living in the United States, outnumbering African-American children by 35,000. Hispanics now make up 15 percent of the U.S. population under 18, and are expected to make up more than 20 percent by 2020.
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But even that projection could be conservative if current patterns continue, said Greg Spencer, the chief of the Census Bureau’s population-projections branch. The population figures were released last month in a federal report that combines data from 10 government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Education, the Office of Management and Budget, and the National Science Foundation.
Several reasons could explain why young Hispanics now outnumber young blacks, including continuing Hispanic immigration, Mr. Spencer said after the report was released. “But one factor has got to be the reduction of black fertility,” he said, referring to recent reports showing a decline in births among African-American women, particularly teenagers. The birthrate among Hispanic women is about 40 percent higher than it is for black women.
Health, Education Findings
“America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being,” the second annual federal report of its kind, covers health, education, and economic security, among other topics.
The report was published by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, which was set up by President Clinton in 1994 to improve communication between the various agencies that produce information on children.
Among other findings, the report says:
- More young children in the United States are being read to every day by their parents--up from 53 percent in 1993 to 57 percent in 1996.
- In 1996, 77 percent of toddlers were up to date on their immunizations.
- In 1995, about 81 percent of children were reported by their parents to be in good or excellent health. That percentage has remained stable since 1984.
- Blood lead levels in young children, which can contribute to behavior and learning problems, have fallen dramatically to just 6 percent. In the late 1970s, 88 percent of children ages 1 to 5 had elevated levels of lead in their blood.
- Math scores on national achievement tests have improved since 1982 among 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds, with 9-year-olds experiencing the largest increase. Reading scores, however, have remained about the same since 1980.
The report also highlights some problems for children as they enter adolescence.
The percentages of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders who smoke, drink, and use illegal drugs increased during the 1990s. A quarter of all high school seniors smoke, the report says.
A version of this article appeared in the August 05, 1998 edition of Education Week as Hispanic Children Outnumber Young Blacks for 1st Time