Saturday, November 24, 2012

Obama: White America's bogeyman?

Total fertility by race, 1980-2010 (source). Is the end of White America being hastened by the Obama presidency? Or is it actually being postponed?

Both the right and the left are trumpeting the Obama presidency as marking the end of White America. In a harshly worded column, conservative Ann Coulter argues that Obama and the Democratic Party are deliberately changing America’s demographics: 

If the same country that voted in 1980 had voted in 2012, Romney would have won a bigger landslide than Reagan did.

Most Americans don’t realize that, decades ago, the Democrats instituted a long-term plan to gradually turn the United States into a Third World nation. The country would become poorer and less free, but Democrats would have an unbeatable majority!

Under Teddy Kennedy’s 1965 immigration act, our immigration policy changed from one that replicated the existing ethnic population to one that strictly favored unskilled immigrants from the Third World. Since 1968, 85 percent of legal immigrants have come from what is euphemistically called “developing countries.” (Coulter, 2012)

Clearly, the 1965 immigration act was key to this demographic revolution. Just as key, however, were successive legislative changes, and increasingly lax enforcement, that progressively raised the levels of both legal and illegal immigration. Also key were differences in fertility rates. Non-White fertility stayed high long after White fertility had fallen during the 1960s and 1970s.

This demographic revolution, however, had the backing of both parties. Yes, the 1965 immigration act was ratified by a Democrat president, but it won the votes of most Republican lawmakers. Supporters included then congressman Gerald Ford (R) and then congressman Robert Dole (R). In fact, there was more opposition from Democrat lawmakers:

The House of Representatives voted 326 to 70 (82.5%) in favor of the act, while the Senate passed the bill by a vote of 76 to 18. In the senate, 52 Democrats voted yes, 14 no, and 1 abstained. Of the Republicans 24 voted yes, 3 voted no, and 1 abstained. (Wikipedia, 2012a)

After 1965, there came successive moves to increase the overall intake, and these moves were likewise Republican-backed. In fact, they were signed into law by Republican presidents. In 1986, Reagan proclaimed an amnesty that not only provided about three million illegal immigrants with citizenship but also set off a baby boom: 

Between 1987 and 1991, total fertility rates for foreign-born Hispanics increased from 3.2 to 4.4. This dramatic rise was the primary force behind the overall increase in the state’s total fertility rate during this period. Were it not for the large increase in fertility among Hispanic immigrants, fertility rates in California would have increased very little between 1987 and 1991. (Hill, 2002, pp. 27-28)

Bush Sr. signed into law the Immigration Act of 1990, which raised the annual legal intake of immigrants from 500,000 to 700,000 (Wikipedia, 2012c). And like his son, he declined to enforce sanctions against employers of illegal immigrants. By the time of Bush Jr., total immigration, both legal and illegal, was running at over one and a half million a year (Camarota, 2007). Far from ending illegal immigration, Reagan’s amnesty had set off a new wave of “undocumented workers” from south of the border. By 2007, the U.S. was home to an estimated 12.5 million illegal immigrants—more than four times the number that Reagan had amnestied (Wikipedia, 2012d)

Throughout this period, fertility rates continued to be much higher among America’s non-white minorities than in the majority White population. For whatever reason, Blacks and Hispanics were not participating in the economic and cultural changes that had reduced White fertility.

The other Obama revolution

The collapse of the Bush Boom led not only to the election of Barack Obama in 2008 but also to a sharp downturn in illegal immigration. Net illegal immigration may now be negative (Passel et al., 2012). Total immigration has fallen to levels unseen since the 1980s.

Non-White fertility has likewise fallen. Hispanic fertility in particular fell from a high of 2.86 children per woman in 2006 to 2.35 in 2010. The same period saw fertility declines in other population groups, with White Americans showing the smallest decline (Martin et al., 2012, see above chart). Preliminary data indicate that this convergence is continuing. In 2011, Hispanic fertility fell to the replacement level of 2.2:

[Fertility rates were] down 6 percent for Hispanic women and 2 percent for non-Hispanic black, whereas the rate for non-Hispanic white women was essentially unchanged. The GFR for AIAN [American Indian and Alaskan native] women was down 2 percent in 2011, whereas the rate for API [Asian and Pacific Islander] women rose 1 percent. The 2011 rates for non-Hispanic black and Hispanic women in 2011 were the lowest ever reported for the United States. (Hamilton et al., 2012)

If current trends continue, all of the major population groups will have fallen to about the same fertility rate by the time Obama leaves office. White Americans may even hold first place, their fertility being buoyed up by groups like the Mormons, the Amish, and the Hassidic Jews. Such a situation will be unprecedented in U.S. history.

One might object that these trends reflect the current hard times. True, but good times aren’t coming back any day soon. American economic growth will be sluggish for at least the next decade and any attempt to do better will abort spectacularly, like the end of the Bush Boom. Because the U.S. is now a mature economy, it can no longer grow at the rates we once saw during the postwar era and now see in many developing countries.

In addition, the decline in non-White fertility doesn’t seem to reflect only economic factors. Black American fertility was already falling during the 1990s and 2000s when economic conditions were much better, aside from a rise when Bush Jr. was pushing to expand minority home ownership. The same cultural factors that previously affected White fertility are now affecting all Americans, specifically a growing desire by women to marry later and limit their number of children.

What if a Republican had been in office?

Is this demographic reversal Obama’s doing? Would it have happened anyway? We can best answer these questions by asking what a Republican president would have done, like McCain in 2008 or Romney in 2012.

First, the level of legal immigration would have been raised—that was in Romney’s platform. Second, there would have been some sort of amnesty, not the same as Obama’s proposal but very similar number-wise. Some 12 million illegal immigrants would have become eligible for an “earned path to citizenship” and any children born on American soil would have automatically gained U.S. citizenship.

Third, there would have been efforts to spur another round of high economic growth through easy credit and deregulation, like the Bush Boom of the past decade.  Such a boom would have done little to raise the average worker’s wage, while doing a lot to spur another influx of low-wage labor for work in construction, agriculture, and services … to mow the lawns of the rich and to build them ever more monster homes.

Finally, a Republican president would have sought to limit access to abortion, perhaps even seeking to overturn Roe vs Wade. There would almost certainly have been a move to cut off Medicaid funding for abortion and birth control.


Regardless of what happens, White Americans are headed for minority status, but that process now promises to be longer and more drawn out than previously thought … thanks to the Obama presidency. Is this a case of his party naively acting against its own interests? Not really. Most Democrats aren’t “anti-White.” That’s a trope that certain dog-whistling Republicans are pushing. Most Democrats just want to see all Americans get the same deal—the same standard of living, the same quality of life, and the same freedom, including reproductive freedom.

Is that a naïve goal? Perhaps. But is it more naïve than the Republican goal of unlimited economic and demographic growth? If pre-2009 trends had continued, the U.S. population would have soared to almost half a billion by mid-century (Beck, 2010; Camarota, 2007).

Political choices aren’t always clear-cut. Yes, Romney is light-skinned, but that’s no guarantee that he cares about the future of White Americans. His interests coincide more with those of the corporate donors who keep the Republican Party afloat.  Yes, Obama is dark-skinned, but he may still be a better choice for White folks worried about their future.  To be sure, the Democratic Party is likewise influenced by corporate donors both directly and indirectly (via NPOs that are nonetheless corporate-funded), but it also has internal factions, like the union movement, that oppose the globalist project of outsourcing to low-wage countries and insourcing low-wage labor. Other factions, notably the environmentalists, are critical of unlimited growth. Finally, the different ethnic factions within the party don’t form a monolithic bloc; infighting will happen, and one faction or another will make appeals for support from White Americans.

Clearly, both parties leave much to be desired. In politics, however, one sometimes has to choose between the terrible and the less terrible. As White Americans descend to minority status, they will have to learn to live by their wits.


Anon. (2012). The USA’s Total Fertility Rates by Race, 1980 to 2010, Hail to you, October 7

Beck, R. (2010). Immigration by the numbers – off the charts,

Camarota, S.A. (2007). 100 million more projecting the impact of immigration on the U.S. population, 2007 to 2060, Centre for Immigration Studies

Coulter, A. (2012). Demography is destiny, Human Events, November 18, 2012

Hamilton, B.E., J.A. Martin, & S.J. Ventura. (2012).  Births: Preliminary Data for 2011, National Vital Statistics Reports, 61(5) October 3

Hill, L.E. (2002). Understanding the Future of Californians’ Fertility: The Role of Immigrants, Public Policy Institute of California, San Francisco

Martin, J.A., B.E. Hamilton, S.J. Ventura, M.J.K. Osterman, E.C. Wilson, & T.J. Mathews. (2012). Births: Final Data for 2010, National Vital Statistics Reports, 61(1) August

Passel, J., D. Cohn, & A. Gonzalez-Barrera. (2012). Net Migration from Mexico Falls to Zero—and Perhaps Less, Pew Hispanic Center, April 23

Wikipedia (2012a). Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965

Wikipedia (2012b). Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986

Wikipedia (2012c). Immigration Act of 1990

Wikipedia (2012d). Illegal immigrant population of the United States


Harmonious Jim said...

Anyone know why the American Indian fertility rate has plummeted to just 1.4?

Anonymous said...

I was going to ask the same thing re: Native Americans. Poor guys.

Black Californians are a relatively small share of that state's population, but I was surprised when the stats for 2010 in California showed that blacks there have a lower tfr than whites.

My one quibble is that I think it is going to be a long time before the Amish and the Hasidic Jews are numerous enough, in a country of 200 million white people, to have any effect on white tfrs.

Davani said...

Interesting essay Peter, but the trends you described are global, and likely have little to do with who is president in the US.

In March of this year David Brooks of the New York Times wrote a much-discussed column called "The Fertility Implosion":

In it, he argued that all ethnicities around the world, including Arabs and Hispanics, are facing a "gray tsunami":

"Iran now has a similar birth rate to New England... The speed of the change is breathtaking. A woman in Oman today has 5.6 fewer babies than a woman in Oman 30 years ago. Morocco, Syria and Saudi Arabia have seen fertility-rate declines of nearly 60 percent, and in Iran it’s more than 70 percent...

[In India], fertility rates in the southern parts of the country, where people are richer and better educated, are already below replacement levels..."

And Foreign Policy Magazine argues that the diminished immigration to America is explained by the ever-decreasing fertility among Hispanics, rather than by any economic recession in the US:

"Birth rates are falling dramatically across Latin America, especially in Mexico, suggesting a tidal shift in migration patterns. Consider what happened with Puerto Rico, where birth rates have also plunged: Immigration to the mainland United States has all but stopped despite an open border and the lure of a considerably higher standard of living on the continent. In the not-so-distant future, the United States may well find itself competing for immigrants rather than building walls to keep them out."

I take David Brooks' view that the whole world is experiencing a fertility implosion, which will be the biggest story of the 21st century (the current hype about overpopulation will die down quickly as the new global reality sets in).

Anonymous said...

"I take David Brooks' view that the whole world is experiencing a fertility implosion, which will be the biggest story of the 21st century (the current hype about overpopulation will die down quickly as the new global reality sets in)."

The places that are the most overpopulated are the ones that have extremely high fertility and no signs of slowing down. Eventually the West will feel that we need to take in a billion African immigrants to get them out of extreme poverty and to replace our aging workforce.

Anonymous said...

I'm skeptical of the argument that immigration has dried up from Mexico permanently because of demographic shifts. Look at their population pyramid and the number of births in their country per year. Mexico is a very young country, with almost as many births each year (2.6 million) as there are among whites in America, despite the fact that there are nearly twice as many American whites as Mexicans.

Anonymous said...

I think Foreign Policy is pretending
not to understand the concept of demographic momentum.

Anonymous said...

"As White Americans descend to minority status, they will have to learn to live by their wits."

Oh yeah, because we've never done that before.

Beyond Anon said...

Regardless of what happens, White Americans are headed for minority status

An important qualifier seems to have been left out: "as long as things continue the way they have."

If whites had not reached the Americas, native Americans would still be in the majority as well.

JayMan said...

Thank you Peter for this post! This is basically in line with what I've been saying about the Democrats and Obama when it comes to addressing the real demographic problems facing America:

Victory « JayMan's Blog

A Success Story? | JayMan's Blog

JayMan said...


Solutions, Again « JayMan's Blog

Liberalism, HBD, Population, and Solutions for the Future « JayMan's Blog

Peter Fros_ said...

Jim, Anon,

I too was flabbergasted by the decline. I suspect Amerindians get the worst of both worlds: (1) they are fully exposed to the anti-natalist tendencies of dominant American culture and (2) they have not developed a pro-natalist counterculture.

About 5-10% of White Americans seem to fall within a pro-natalist counterculture. Some of them belong to the groups I listed in my post, but most seem to be generic fundamentalist Christians. The difference is that they practice what they preach, e.g., homeschooling, refusal to watch TV, and generalized withdrawal from mass culture.


Yes and no. We're seeing sharp fertility declines throughout most of the world, with the notable exceptions of sub-Saharan Africa and certain Muslim countries that have a strong fundamentalist orientation (Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia).

These are BIG exceptions. Ignore them at your own risk.


Yes, we've been there before. Time to relearn.

Beyond Anon,

Yes, it's difficult to predict the long-term future, but the short-term future is already with us. Certain trends will likely change. Latin American immigration will probably decline over time, but immigration from Africa and the Muslim world has much untapped potential.


I should be thanking you! Your posts have influenced my thinking on this and other questions.

Ben10 said...

Does it matter? since the US of A is a melting pot destined to be the cradle of a Future Standardized American, the respective fertility rates of the different 'founder' groups is an issue that can be relevant for the next 30 or 40 years, but no more.
Because 'Mixity' is an irreversible process, for Whites at least, 'Mixity' wins over 'fertility rates'.
The speed of that is more dependant of the socio-economy than demographic factors, IMO, which means that in America, 'races' are out and social classes are 'in'. For example the financial crisis and affirmative action policies should have an effect on where the declassed middle class white people put their kids. Predictibly, more Whites should put their kids in public schools, which 'encourage' the melting pot, to say the very least.
But I am not even sure private schools prevent racial intermixing. All private schools do is to promote the inter-mixing of children of the same class, irrespective of their race: the rich with the rich and the poor with the poor.
So, my guess is that the typical 'American' circa 2080-2100 will be divided in two classes:
1) a standardized mixed-race 30% white, 20% latinos, 20% black, 10% asian/Indy, 10% amerindian, 10% or less jew, individual in the lower class,
and 2) a 'whiter' mixed-race 50% white, 25% jew, 20% asian/indy, 5%black, individual in the upper class.

Toddy Cat said...

"Most Democrats aren’t “anti-White.”

Hoa anyone can read the crowing of certain Democrats after the last electiom, and say this with a straight face, beats me.

Anonymous said...

Not sure whether you can blame Obama's policies for the decline of immigration... I'd say the economic crisis brought about these changes.

Peter Fros_ said...


The U.S. is still far from being a melting pot. Only 10% of children born to White American women are fathered by men of other racial backgrounds.

Toddy Cat,

"Some" Democrats, yes, but "some" doesn't mean "most."


The high rates of immigration, both legal and illegal, were due to the Bush Boom and the policies that favored a mass influx of low-wage labor. If Romney had been elected, we would have seen a reboot of the Bush Boom.

And that would have been End Game. The tipping point for the demise of White America would no longer have been in mid-century. It would have been in the late 2020s. said...

Interesting post.

What could be the reasons of the different falling rate of births for the different groups?
The 2008 crisis hit them all, but Whites, apparently, endured better than the rest.
Do you have some figures about the fertility rates between 1920-1950? Do the effect on the fertility rate was the same or similar? I found some and, apparently, yes. TBR fell faster from higher levels for Blacks than for Whites and rebound faster from lower level for Whites than Blacks.

It appear Blacks are hit sooner and harder and recover later and less than Whites.

The prospect of continuous economic troubles in the future of the USoA make me think the trend of faster declining birthrates for Blacks and Hispanics will continue in the future, where Whites will stabilize and could rebound a little like in the '90s.

I note there is a bump on the graph of TFR for all groups (smaller for Whites) coincident with the housing bubble top and a sharp fall (smaller for the Whites) coincident with the house price top starting.

Do the increase of TFR was linked to family formations? Probably.
This is marked for Blacks. The TFR fall before the bump (delayed births) to allow capital accumulation to buy the home. The home increase in price (people feel wealthier) and they start having children. House prices fall, jobs are lost, people feel poorer and stop having other children, New house formations are delayed.

Peter Fros_ said...


One reason is that White Americans have a lower rate of illegitimacy than other groups, except Asians (who have about the same rate). Easier access to abortion and birth control thus tends to reduce fertility to a greater extent in these other groups.

Another reason is the existence of a high-fertility counterculture among White Americans. These are people who practice homeschooling and abstinence from mass culture. They are generally but not always Christian fundamentalists.

The housing bubble boosted fertility among Hispanics and Blacks. This was a more or less deliberate aim of the Bush administration in its drive to increase minority home ownership (the other aim was to help out its buddies in the real estate industry). The reasoning was that if people own their own homes they will be socially more responsible. There is, indeed, a causal link between the two, but it runs in the other direction. Socially responsible people are more likely to put money aside to buy a home. said...

Thank you for the reply.

Do you think Black (and other)'s TFR could fall under the TFR of Whites if the present economic conditions become worse and stay so for a long (5-10-15 years) time?

In Denmark the TFR of locals is now a bit higher than the TFR of immigrants.

Peter Fros_ said...


Yes, I think so, perhaps in 5 years time.

Anonymous said...

Affirmative action would seem to be the opposite of living by one's wits. And rather than being a temporary palliative, affirmative action is being applied (permanently) to more and more non-white groups over time.

Any demographer who does not address the counterproductive consequences of permanent race-based affirmative action in hires, contracts, and admissions, is just whistling out his mass.

Silver said...

The U.S. is still far from being a melting pot. Only 10% of children born to White American women are fathered by men of other racial backgrounds.

But that's what whites are 'living towards,' if you follow my meaning, and they seem determined that nothing but nothing should deter them from that path. So it may be a while a way yet but it's virtually a foregone conclusion.

In California in 2008 22% of children born to non-hispanic white females were fathered by non-whites and one must expect this trend will continue. If 25% of children born to white mothers are fathered by non-whites then even if white TFR reaches an unlikely level of 2.5 it will still be the case that less than a replacement number of white children are born (ie 2.5 * .75 = 1.875).

Of course, there is little reason to think that mixing might stop at 25%. It could continue all the way to 50% or so, where it seems reasonable to think it may level off as mixing bumps up against dedicated white preservationists.

But one should also consider whether the devoutness of white preservation really stems from racial commitment/revulsion or whether its roots tend to be cultural. That is, are white preservationists not attracted to non-whites racially, or is it more the case that the general cultural alienness of non-whites removes them from consideration. If it's the latter, that alienness will diminish over time - think of mixed children 'raised white' - which means estimates of the number of 'racially-caused' white preservationists must be adjusted accordingly. The implication for the long run is that there is nothing preventing 100% of children born to white mothers being fathered by non-whites.

In short, Peter, the prospects are bleak. While one must be wary of spreading despair or a sense of hopelessness, but at the same time one must also inculcate some sense of urgency. Telling people "it's not that bad," in my view, only encourages a false sense of security and further apathy.