Wednesday, April 6, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
For the first time, a majority of children in Nevada belong to racial minorities, a trend fueled mostly by population growth among Hispanics, according to an analysis of the 2010 Census.
The study from the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington also found that Hispanic children outnumber their white counterparts in the Las Vegas metropolitan area. Brookings reported that Nevada led the nation with a 30 percent increase in children under age 18 from 2000 through 2010.
Brookings senior fellow William Frey, who authored the report, said policy makers will have to make tough decisions to benefit the younger generation, such as increased investment in education. That investment will be key because many of the newer Hispanics, including recent immigrants, haven’t had as much education as those who make up the current workforce, he said.
If the older generations resist, “it will be a recipe for economic disaster,” Frey said.
Brookings found that white children, who made up 54 percent of the state’s under-18 population in 2000, were only 39.5 percent of that population last year. Hispanics made up 39 percent last year, followed by blacks (8 percent), Asian-Americans (6.5 percent) and multi-racial children (5.9 percent).
While the number of children in Nevada increased by 153,209 over the 10-year period, there was a gain of 115,733 among Hispanics but a decline of 13,396 among whites.
White children in the Las Vegas metropolitan area were already in the minority in 2000 at 47 percent, but their numbers dropped to 33.5 percent last year, while Hispanics made up 42 percent.
State demographer Jeff Hardcastle said he wasn’t surprised by the findings, given the steady growth in the Hispanic population in Nevada since the 1990s.
“This is something that didn’t just explode out of nowhere,” Hardcastle said. “This has been a long-term phenomenon.”
Frey likewise said he wasn’t surprised by the findings because fertility rates among Hispanics have been rising nationally while they have been declining among whites.
In the report, “America’s Diverse Future: Initial Glimpses at the U.S. Child Population from the 2010 Census,” Brookings also pointed to relatively new “racial generation gaps” among children and adults both in Las Vegas and statewide.
American society has always had generation gaps based on age. But there is now an extra layer to that gap, with non-Hispanic white adults making up majorities in Las Vegas and Nevada while non-Hispanic white children are in the minority.
Whereas 33.5 percent of the children in Las Vegas are white, the same was true of 52.8 percent of the adults. Among the nation’s 100 largest cities, that was the seventh largest racial generation gap.
Nevada had the second largest racial generation gap in the nation, behind only Arizona, with only 39.5 percent of its children but 58.9 percent of its adults being white.
“For most of the older population, when they look at the population of children they don’t see a personal connection,” he said.