Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

Demography, it’s been said, is destiny – a society’s age cohorts, genders, ethnicities, income distributions, home ownership and education levels, and other characteristics determine its place in the larger scheme of things.

While California’s demographics are always changing, we are now experiencing one of our periodic, destiny-changing evolutions:

• Our population growth has slowed markedly, from about 2 1/2 percent a year during the 1980s to scarcely 1 percent today.

• Traditionally, migration has played a huge role in that growth. Today it’s a negligible or even negative factor, with slightly more people leaving for other states than are arriving from other nations.

• We still have a relatively high birthrate, with more than a half-million babies born every year, or roughly one a minute. Meanwhile, about half that many Californians die each year, thus generating a net annual population growth of around a quarter-million.

• Three-quarters of those babies are being born to nonwhite mothers, which means there’s a widening generational gap between a fast-aging and shrinking white population and a young and still-growing nonwhite segment.

• As white baby boomers retire in ever-increasing numbers (the oldest are now 65, the youngest 46), they will be seeking more and more age-related services, such as medical care, while schools and workforces will be dominated by younger, nonwhite Californians.

• While Asian American and white kids are doing relatively well in public education, the data on academic achievement and high school graduation are miserable for Latino and black kids, which could mean a looming shortage of trained and trainable labor if and when the recession ends.

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