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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Alt-Right’s “Demographic Nightmare” Is… Texas 2016

The Lone Star State Is Majority Minority Already

There is a growing strand of conservative thought that worries about demographic change, especially changes triggered by immigration. The percentage of Americans who are non-Hispanic white is projected to fall from 62.2% in 2014 to only 43.6% in 2060.

Some conservatives seem to have two worries:

A growing minority population, especially Hispanics, will lead to American becoming poorer, more like a third world country.

Non-whites are more likely to support socialist-type spending programs, partly because they are poorer, and partly because they lack the Anglo-Saxon cultural tradition of loving liberty.

I don’t wish to discuss the validity of those worries, other than to say that I don’t share this anxiety over demographic change.

Instead, I’d like to explore what America will look like in 2060. Below I provide the projections from the Census Bureau. Unfortunately, there was some double counting, as Hispanic non-whites were counted twice in the data, leading to the percentages adding up to a bit more than 100%. Thus, only the total Hispanic and the non-Hispanic white figures are accurate. I adjusted the other figures based on what we know today about the share of non-whites who are also Hispanic. In parentheses, I’ve added the unadjusted figures, which as I said add up to more than 100%. Fortunately, none of my later claims will hinge on the accuracy of these adjustments.

Non-Hispanic white43.6%
Hispanic 28.6%
Black13.3% (14.3%)
Asian9.0% (9.3%)
Multirace4.6% (6.2%)
Other0.9% (1.5%)

So that’s the horror story that we are all supposed to fear.

Then I looked for a state that had some similar demographics right now, to get a sense of what it would be like to live in this sort of dystopian nightmare. And I found one — Texas! Indeed, the Lone Star state is even “worse” from a neo-reactionary perspective:

Non-Hispanic white43.5%
Hispanic 38.6%

The non-Hispanic white share is almost identical to America in 2060. But the Hispanic share is actually much higher today in Texas than it will be in America in 2060. In contrast, the Asian share in Texas today is only half as large as expected in America in 2060. Why do I say this is “worse”? Because many of the people who complain about demographic change seem particularly worried about the growing Hispanic population. I even recall one “alt-right” type who referred to them as “rapists and drug dealers.” In contrast, they often single out Asians as a “model minority” that has been quite successful in America.

Whatever you think of these demographic characterizations, one thing is clear: from a neo-reactionary perspective, the Texas of 2014 is even “worse” than the America of 2060.

I hope that by now you see the problem, or indeed a few problems:

  1. Neoreactionaries seem to think the America of 2060 will be a particularly inhospitable place for white people. And yet white folks are moving to Texas in droves. Indeed the only other state that comes close (in terms of absolute population growth) is Florida, which also has lots of blacks and Hispanics (but not very many Asians).
  2. The Texas economy is also highly successful. Even during the oil bust, people continue to move to Texas and its population continues to grow rapidly, up by nearly a half million (almost 2%) in the most recent year (mid-2014 to mid-2015). The unemployment rate is only 4.2%, close to the 4.0% considered optimal by Bernie Sanders. And this was accomplished despite the hemorrhaging of oil jobs.
  3. In electoral terms, Texas is a fairly conservative, small government state.

So there you have it. The alt-right’s looming demographic nightmare is best represented by Texas, a state that is economically quite successful, draws in lots of white migrants from other states, and votes conservative. I wonder what their ideal state looks like? Maybe West Virginia, which is America’s least Hispanic state.

What about going further out than 2060? My response would be that no one knows what the distant future will look like. The Anglo-Saxon worries about Irish immigrants in the 1800s look ridiculous today. I’m not denying that demographics matter to some extent — I do believe that cultural differences can be important. I just think the worries about America are absurdly overdone. We’ll be fine. And if we aren’t, it won’t be due to demographics.

  • Scott B. Sumner is the director of the Program on Monetary Policy at the Mercatus Center and a professor at Bentley University. He blogs at the Money Illusion and Econlog.