Serving The Emerging Student Demography

The stories of the future of American higher education and the nation as a whole cannot be told without regard to their changing demographic landscapes. The United States is at the crossroads of tremendous demographic changes to which American higher education must respond. While the historical trends in the demography of the nation are a remarkable story in itself, the reshaping of the nation is projected to continue at a fast pace for decades to come and will be a fundamentally different story than in the past.

The Size and Growth of the AAPI Population

The release of the 2010 U.S. Census data demonstrates significant changes in the U.S. population. For example, the total U.S. population more than doubled between 1950 and 2010, from 151 to 309 million a faster rate of growth than any other industrialized nation in the world. Trends in actual and projected data demonstrate that the AAPI population is a significant contributor to the growth of the U.S. as a whole. While the AAPI population was relatively small up to 1960 when it was less than one million persons, it has been doubling in size nearly every decade since then, which is a remarkable trend (Figure 1).

Contributing to the changing demography of the nation as a whole, the growth in the population is anticipated to continue at a significant pace based on projections to 2050, when AAPIs are estimated to reach nearly 40 million persons. The remarkable growth of the AAPI population has been well documented,11 particularly following changes to immigration policy in 1965 and refugee policy in 1975 and 1980, which vastly increased the growth, diversity, and complexity of the AAPI population.12 These changes to immigration policy and its implications for AAPIs have resulted in the shifting demographic makeup of the population that is unlike any other major racial group in the U.S. with regard to their heterogeneity.

AAPIs are a Characteristically Unique Population

The U.S. population is experiencing tremendous change with regard to its composition and profile. The U.S. Census reports the majority of the increase in the U.S. population is attributable to people who reported race as other than White. In 1950, about one in 10 Americans was of a race other than White. By 2000, the non-White population increased to about one in four (Figure 2). Projected changes in the population will render a new American "minority-majority" between now and 2050, with the White population projected to decrease to less than half of the total population.

With these shifting demographic trends over time, it is important to note the age distribution of the U.S. population. William Frey at the Brookings Institution recently said of this phenomenon, "the White population is older and very much centered around the aging baby boomers... [and] the future of America is epitomized by the young people today."13 He said of America's youth, "they are basically the melting pot we are going to see in the future." This change is already having an impact on the makeup of schools and colleges in this country.

Figure 2 depicts another change that is frequently underemphasized—the growth in minority groups can be attributed largely to increases among two populations, Latinos and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, with the Black population merely maintaining its proportional representation from 2010 to 2050. In California, for example, nearly all of the growth in the population between 2000 and 2010 could be attributed solely to Latinos and AAPIs.14 Three other states in addition to California—Hawaii, New Mexico, and Texas-as well as Washington, D.C., have minority populations that exceeded 50 percent. Approximately one in 10 counties nationally now have minority populations of 50 percent or greater, which is a 25 percent increase since 2000.

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11 - H. Barringer, R. Gardner, & M. Levin. Asian and Pacific Islanders in the United States (New York: Russell Sage, 1995).
12 - R. Teranishi, Asians in the Ivory Tower: Dilemmas of Racial Inequality in American Higher Education (New York: Teachers College Press, 2010).
13 - S. Ohlemacher, White Americans no longer a majority by 2042 (New York: Associated Press, 2008).
14 - U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Interim Projections by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin (Washington, DC: Au- thor, 2004).