Demographic Trends in the United States. The Changing Electoral Demographics

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2013

27 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Contents


1. Population Diversification - Minority Voters
1.1. On a Way to a “Majority-Minority” Nation
1.2. Declining Non-Hispanic White Population
1.3. Minority Groups, Democrat’s Biggest Constituencies are Growing

2. Millennial Generation
2.1. Rising Importance of Millennial Voters
2.2. Unsteady Allegiance to the Democratic Party

3. Trends in the Female Population
3.1. Unmarried Women
3.2. Well-Educated Women

4. Transformations in the Workforce
4.1. Professionals As a Growing Demographic Group
4.2. Professionals, a Key Demographic Voting Bloc

5. Conclusion

Works Cited


Following the 2012 presidential election in the United States, the demographic make up of the U.S. electorate has been the focal point of discussions and analysis in the national, even in the international media. The week following the elections, it became clear that November 6 2012 marked the date that demographic change had caught up with America, or rather with the Republican Party. Suddenly it became very obvious that the American electorate has undergone significant demographic changes that will continue in the future and have fundamental impacts on governing and policy-making. In this paper, I want to examine which trends will change American electoral demographics or have changed them already. What do certain demographic shifts mean for the electorate of the 21st century?

Evaluating presidential election exit polls, data by the U.S. Census Bureau as well as research reports by e.g. the Pew Research Center and media coverage about the 2012 elections, my thesis in this paper is as follows: I am arguing that there is an emerging new 21st century electorate in respect to young voters, ethnic diversity and minority groups, certain subgroups of the female population and transformations in the U.S. workforce. I have narrowed my analysis down to these factors, but I want to point out that other factors such as geographical shifts or changes in religious views could also play a decisive role in the changing 21st century electorate of the U.S.

Most of the U.S. population is not “white” as it used to be. The U.S. population is growing more diverse every year and demographers argue for the States to become a so-called “majority-minority” nation over the next decades. Hence, chapter one highlights population diversification and what it means for the changing electorate demographics. In chapter two, I am going to focus on generational cohorts and demographic change. Hereby the “millennial generation” and their part in the emerging new electorate will be at the centre. In the 2012 presidential elections women voters have been described as the key to elections. In this regard, chapter three will deal with demographic changes within the American female population. Especially with the growing influence of certain growing subgroups of women such as unmarried- and well-educated women. Before I draw a conclusion in chapter five, I will focus on demographic trends in the U.S. workforce and what these shifts mean for the future electorate– as far as this is possible within the scope of this paper.

1. Population Diversification - Minority Voters

1.1. On a Way to a “Majority-Minority” Nation

The U.S. electorate is made up of multiple ethnicities, however the United States are undergoing an evolving demographic transformation. Even though the States are growing more slowly - the rate of population growth in the 2000 decade has been the slowest in seventy years since the Great Depression - the population is growing more diverse every year with minorities driving population growth.[1] In the aftermath of the 2012 U.S. elections and even in the forerun, political observers and demographers were arguing that minority voters favored Obama’s re-election bid.[2] In May 2012 the well-known demographer William H. Frey argued “Whatever scenario comes to pass, minorities are going to matter in November. The new demography of the electorate guarantees it. (...) The 2012 election will most assuredly be a battle of turnout and its outcome will greatly depend on the enthusiasm of minority voting blocs”.[3] Hereby the term “minority groups” is used lightly since these ethnicities are becoming larger than the white population group now. Minorities consist of all but the single-race non-Hispanic white population.

Changes in the overall population share are measured by sources such as the Census Bureau. Census Data has shown that the United States are on a way to becoming a noticeably older, more racially and ethnically diverse, a so called “majority minority” nation over the next decades. By 2043 it will reach a majority-minority status for the first time, remarks the U.S. Census Bureau in a press release in December 2012. A graphic released by the Census Bureau in Dec 2012 highlights changes until 2060.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: U.S. Census Bureau[4]

However, the graphic presents one confusing aspect. The graphic includes the categories ‘White Alone’ and ‘Non-Hispanic White Alone’. The first category includes the latter one, which can be described as the so-called Anglo-Saxon White and includes people with origins in any of the original peoples of European, the Middle East or North Africa.[5] Slightly confusing might be that the category ‘White Alone’ includes ‘White Hispanic’, those white Americans with Hispanophone ancestry. However, this category is not listed in the chart. What does this graphic imply? It implies that the U.S. is getting rapidly more diverse with the white non-hispanic population becoming a minority of the country while by mid-century Hispanics, Blacks, Asians and multiracial people combined will become the majority of the United States.

According to the Census Bureau estimates the white non-Hispanic population is going to become an ever decreasing share of the U.S. population dropping to minority status already in 2043. If one focuses on different age groups, then the white population under 18 years will drop to minority status already in 2018, which is very soon. The Hispanics and Asians will drive minority growth above all. The Hispanic population is projected to more than double by 2060. This means that by the end of the period in 2060, nearly one in three U.S. residents will be Hispanic, up from about one in six today. The Asian population is projected to more than double as well, climbing from 5.1 percent in 2012 to 8.2 percent in the same period. In conclusion, minorities, now about 37 percent of the U.S. population, are projected to comprise about 57 percent of the population in 2060. The Census Bureau estimates that “the total minority population would more than double, from 116.2 million to 241.3 million over the period”.[6]

This leads to the question, which factors influence the non-hispanic white population’s decline as a percentage of the total U.S. population. Where does the growth of minority populations come from?

1.2. Declining Non-Hispanic White Population

Immigration from countries where the white population is of non-White and/or Hispanic origin, as well as fertility rates can give an answer to the question of the last paragraph. William Frey suggests, “because of recent immigration waves from Latin America and Asia and an aging, low-fertility white population, America is “browning” from the bottom of our age structure on up”.[7] Immigration from Latin America and Asia is increasing, however immigration from European countries has been steadily declining from 1960 to 2010.[8] European Immigration declined from 75% in 1960 to just 12% in 2010 whereas immigration from Latin America grew from 9% to 53% in the same period.[9]

What is more, the white population’s fertility rates are lower than those of minority groups. Overall, fertility rates among women of all ethnicities in the U.S. have fallen in recent years, as the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) remarks.[10] In developed countries birth rates tend to fall during periods of economic distress, as PRB analysis remarks. Fertility rates dropped to low levels during the Great Depression in the 1930s and around the time of the oil crisis in the 1970s. Since the onset of the recession in 2007 they have declined sharply. The PRB mentions that a drop in birth rates, or rather a leveling off, could be a short-term response to unemployment rates or announce a longer-term drop eventually. Pew Research analysts say that these fertility declines are associated especially with younger women, “who presumably have the luxury of postponing fertility until better economic times prevail”.[11] This could comply with data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicating in their report “Births: Final data for 2011” that the birth rate for women in their 20s fell to a record low in 2011.[12] However, usually recessions effect fertility rates up to two to five years.[13] The total fertility rates, that means the nations overall concentration in childbearing, seems to decline as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports. The total fertility rate (TFR) for the States in 2011 fell about to a historical low of 1.89 children per woman (1.93 in 2010).[14] This number is below the children-per-woman replacement rate of 2,1 that the U.S. would need for demographic stability.[15] However, now that the economy in the States seems to rebound the fertility rate might increase again.

Much attention has been given to the media by the news that the U.S. has reached a demographic “tipping point”. Last year the Census Bureau reported that minority births outnumbered white births for the first time in history in 2012. In summer 2012 the Census Bureau released its estimates that for the first time in history, ethnic minority infants made up 50,4 percent of the U.S. births in a 12-month period ending in July 2012. This was up from 49,5 percent from the 2010 Census taken in April 2010.[16]

If this trend should continue, it will have far reaching impacts on the political alignment, the nature of the U.S. workforce and on the economic future. The U.S. population as a whole is aging driven by the population of 65 years and older - Especially by the roughly 78 million white baby boomers, the generation that was born between 1946 and 1964. Their percentage of the total U.S. population is projected to reach 20,2% in 2050. This means that one in five persons in 2050 will be aged 65 or older.[17] Hence, a big part of the aging white population will rely on young Hispanics or Asians to support Social Security and other retirement programs. William H. Frey notices this demographic change as a challenge and a chance acknowledging long-term benefits such as economic competitiveness in the international marketplace. However, he also denotes “But these changes, coming so quickly and evolving from the “bottom up” of our age structure, may exacerbate existing cultural generation gaps, as older, largely white generations may be slow to recognize the promise of this change”.[18]

Especially Hispanics are driving these gains in minority births. One reason is the increase of the young minority populations compared to the aging white population, which is beyond its fertility rates as William Frey notes.[19] However, among all major racial groups birth rates have fallen in general due to the economic distress as the PRB states.[20] The drop for white women has been larger. Nevertheless, Jeffrey Passel and others explain in a report from 2012 the outnumbering of white births stating that among other factors, Hispanic’s fertility rates exceeds those of non-hispanic Whites, non-Hispanic Asians and non-Hispanic Blacks in general.[21] In 2010 the total fertility rate of Hispanics was 2,4, for non-Hispanic Blacks 2,1, for non-Hispanic Whites 1,8 and for non-Hispanic Asians 1,7.[22] Another factor explaining the outnumbering of white births could be an increase in interracial dating and intermarriage as the authors suggest. Children born to couples with one white parent are not classified or recorded as non-Hispanic white.[23]


[1] Ruy Teixeira, William H. Frey, “New Data on Obama’s Massive Demographic Advantage”, The New Republ ican,, Online 09. July 2012, Web. 12. Aug. 2013.

[2] Teixeira, Frey.

[3] William H. Frey, “Why Minorities Will Decide the 2012 U.S. Election”, The Brookings Institute,, Online May 2012, Web. 12. Aug 2013

[4] United States Census Bureau. “U.S. Census Bureau Projections Show a Slower Growing, Older, More Diverse Nation a Half Century from Now. Newsroom. Bureau of the Census. 12. Dec 2012. Web 30. May 2013.

[5] Elayne J. Heisler, Laura B. Shresta, “The Changing Demographic Profile of the United States”, Congressional Research Service, Report,, Online 31. March 2011, Web. 12. Aug. 2013, p.17.

[6] United States Census Bureau. “U.S. Census Bureau Projections Show a Slower Growing, Older, More Diverse Nation a Half Century from Now, Bureau of the Census, Newsroom, 12. Dec 2012. Web 30. May 2013.

[7] William H. Frey, “Will 2012 be the Last Hurrah for Whites”, National Journal,, online 13. June 2012, Web. 12. Aug. 2013.

[8] United States Census Bureau, “The Foreign-Born Population in the United States”, Newsroom,, Web 12. Aug. 2013, p.4.

[9] United States Census Bureau, “America’s Foreign Born in the Last 50 Years”, How Do We Know,, Web 12. Aug. 2013, p.2.

[10] Mark Mather, “Fact Sheet: the Decline in U.S. Fertility”, The Population Reference Bureau, Word Population Datat Sheet 2012,, Online July 2012, Web. 22. Aug. 2013.

[11] Gretchen Livingston, “In a Down Economy, Fewer Births”, Pew Research Social and Demographic Trends,, Online 12 Oct. 2012, Web. 22.Aug 2013.

[12] Joyce A. Martin, Brady E. Hamilton, Stephanie J. Ventura, Michelle J.K. Osterman, T.J. Mathews, “Births: Final Data for 2011”, National Vital Statistics Report, vol. 62, no. 1 (2011): 1-35, 8, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,, Online 28. June 2011, Web 22. Aug. 2013.

[13] Mather.

[14] Martin et. all, 10.

[15] Martin et. all, 10.

[16] United States Census Bureau, “Most Children Younger than Age 1 are Minorities, Census Bureau Reports”, Bureau of the Census, Newsroom, 17. May 2012, Web 30. May 2013.

[17] Heisler, Shresta, 13f.

[18] William H. Frey, “America Reaches its Demographic Tipping Point”, The Brookings Institute, UpFront,, Online 26. Aug 2011, Web. 22. Aug 2013.

[19] Frey, “America Reaches its Demographic Tipping Point”.

[20] Mather.

[21] Jeffrey Passel, Gretchen Livingston, D’Vera Cohn, “Explaining Why Minority Births Now Outnumber White Births”, Pew Research Social and Demographic Trends,, Online 17. May 2012, Web. 22 Aug 2013.

[22] Mather.

[23] Passel, Livingston, Cohn.

Excerpt out of 27 pages


Demographic Trends in the United States. The Changing Electoral Demographics
Free University of Berlin  (John-F.-Kennedy Institu)
Culture and Society in the U.S.: America Divided?
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Politik, Soziologie, Amerikanistik, Demografie, Demographic Trends, USA, Electoral Demographics
Quote paper
Linda Harnisch (Author), 2013, Demographic Trends in the United States. The Changing Electoral Demographics, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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