Diversity on rise in state's under-18 population
Census 2010 data released last week reveals Washington's children are a more diverse lot than the state's adults.
Seattle Times staff reporters
Fewer than one-third of the adults in King County are people of color.
The kids? Nearly half.
If our children are indeed our future, 2010 census results released last week suggest Washington's population will only become more diverse over the next few decades.
Minorities make up a growing share of the state's overall population — but an even bigger share of the population that's under 18, the statistics show.
More than three-fourths of Washington's adults — but just 61 percent of its kids — are white, the Census Bureau reported.
What's more, the state's youngest citizens are a significantly more diverse lot than a decade ago. In 2000, minorities accounted for two of every seven children. Now it's almost two in five.
None of this is new, demographers say — the under-18 population has been getting increasingly diverse, and outpacing the adult population on that score, for several decades. They attribute the trend to several influences — including The Pill.
"When contraception became widely available in the 1960s, white women chose to have fewer children," said Richard Morill, a Seattle demographer and University of Washington geography professor emeritus.
Immigration has also played a big part, said Chandler Felt, King County demographer. A growing share of the state's children are immigrants or children of immigrants. And many immigrant groups, especially Latinos, tend to have more children.
"King County growth has been driven by immigration since at least 1990," Felt said.
The number of Latino children in King County jumped 90 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to the census. Statewide, that figure was 69 percent.
Nearly 19 percent of all children in the state are Latino now, up from fewer than 12 percent a decade ago. Children of color now make up a majority of the under-18 population in five counties — Adams, Franklin, Grant, Okanogan and Yakima. All have large Hispanic populations.
The Asian-American under-18 population also increased significantly statewide over the past decade, but nowhere near as dramatically.
Conversely, the number of white children in the state actually dropped during the decade. The white population is aging, Morrill said, and that means fewer kids.
Just two of Washington's 39 counties — Clark (which has Vancouver) and Franklin (Pasco) — saw an increase in the number of white children. And just two tiny Eastern Washington counties — Columbia and Ferry — experienced a drop in the number of minority kids.
The state's largest city stood almost alone in bucking the statewide trends. There are nearly 5,000 more white children in Seattle now than there were in 2000, according to the census, and they account for 53 percent of the city's under-18 population, up slightly from a decade ago.
Research by city and school officials suggests the growth in numbers of white children is coming not in formerly minority neighborhoods that are gentrifying, but in traditionally white areas like the North End and West Seattle, Felt said. In those neighborhoods women in their 20s and early 30s may be having more babies, he said.
While the number of minority children in Seattle has edged up 2 percent since 2000, the city now has fewer African-American, Asian-American and American Indian children than a decade ago.
The picture couldn't be more different elsewhere in King County.
A decade ago, most children in Bellevue, Kent, Renton and Federal Way were white. Now, children of color outnumber them in all four cities — by nearly two-to-one in Renton and Kent.
Two-thirds of the children in Sammamish are white — but that's down from 85 percent in 2000. While the number of white children there rose only a hair during the decade, the number of minority children nearly tripled, with Asian Americans accounting for most of that growth.
An increasingly diverse young population poses both opportunities and challenges, Felt and Morrill said.
Schools need to focus more attention on preparing children from a dizzying assortment of cultural backgrounds for a new generation of jobs, so high-tech employers don't need to import highly skilled workers from overseas, Morrill said.
Governments and social-service agencies need to work harder at outreach, Felt said: "It just requires a lot more attention to different cultures and different needs."
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