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Census Reveals Huge Racial Gap Between Boomers and Millennials

By Jake Beardslee · August 8, 2023

In brief…

  • New census data shows America's population is rapidly aging as the large baby boomer cohort moves into its golden years.
  • Census data also reveals increasing racial diversity among younger generations, with declines in white populations under age 55 as diversity rises.
  • This growing generational divide between a predominantly white older population and more diverse youth and working-age groups creates major social and political challenges for the nation.
  • By 2045, the percentage of non-Hispanic white individuals in the United States is projected to dip below the 50% threshold.
New census data reveals an America with a predominantly white senior deographic while its youth and working-age populations grow increasingly diverse.  Ro Khanna/Wikimedia

Fresh data from the 2020 census spotlights a rapidly aging America, driven by the graying of the massive baby boomer cohort. According to the Census Bureau, the population aged 65 and over saw historic growth over the past decade, expanding by more than 15 million people since 2010 - the fastest rate since the late 1800s. The senior surge reflects the inevitable progression of the boomer generation into their golden years.

However, the census data also shows that the younger population is much more racially diverse than older age groups - due , in part, to higher immigration in recent decades. The number of white Americans decreased in age groups under 55 years old, even as older white age groups grew as a result of the aging of baby boomers.

The census data reveals sizable racial divides between older and younger populations across much of the U.S. Arizona has the biggest gap, with a nearly 41 percentage point difference between the white share of seniors versus youth. Other states such as Florida, California and Texas also exhibit large divides in the racial makeup of their older and younger residents. Substantial generational racial disparities also exist in many other parts of the nation. Experts believe the wide racial divide between older and younger generations is likely reflected in how the public views issues such as affirmative action and race education in schools.

More broadly, the latest census data indicates that Generation Z will constitute the final cohort of Americans predominantly comprised of a white majority. This demographic transition commenced with Generation Alpha, encompassing those born approximately from 2010 onwards, where the so-called “majority-minority” phenomenon made its debut.

By the year 2045, the percentage of non-Hispanic white individuals in the U.S. is projected to dip below the 50% threshold as a proportion of the total population, marking a pivotal milestone in the nation’s social and demographic evolution.