Back to School … and Most Students Aren’t White

U.S. public schools hit a milestone. What percentage of students this year are white?

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By Chris Hoenig

Schools will have a student body that is mostly non-white this year.

Photo by Shutterstock

For the first time, non-Hispanic whites will make up less than 50 percent of this year’s U.S. public-school students.

The National Center for Education Statistics projects that Latinos, Blacks, Asians and Pacific Islanders, American Indians and biracial students will, when added together, represent 50.2 percent of the 2014–2015 student population.

Whites will continue as the largest racial and ethnic demographic in schools at 49.8 percent of the student body. About 25 percent of students are Latino, followed by Black students (15 percent of the student population), and Asians and Pacific Islanders at 5 percent. American Indian and biracial students combine to round out the remaining 5-plus percent.

The center’s report cites the growth of the Latino school-age population, even though recent Census reports and corresponding analyses have shown birth rates in the Latino population to be slowing, with Asians the fastest-growing population in the United States.

There may be another factor to the shift in the demographics of public-school students, possibly from the intolerance of diversity.

About an hour southwest of Philadelphia, Kennett Consolidated School District Superintendent Barry Tomasetti has had parents opt to send their children to private schools in Delaware, rather than keep them in Kennett’s more diverse classrooms. The district has undergone a significant shift, with local families going from upper-middle-class white to 40 percent Latino.

“We like our diversity,” Tomasetti said, noting that many families seek out his district’s schools “because they realize it’s not a homogenous world out there.”

Tomasetti said the district is absorbing extra costs as part of the demographic shift, including translators for parent-teacher conferences and additional English-language instructors. The work, he said, is all part of a single goal: “Our expectation is all of our kids succeed.”

The changes in school populations reflect the projected shift in the general population of the U.S. By 2043, the Census Bureau estimates non-Hispanic whites will fall below 50 percent of the population, as they already have in four states and the District of Columbia. Roughly 20 percent of America’s children speak a language other than English at home.

But as the population grows more diverse, schools have only grown more segregated—especially in the Northeast and the Midwest. In Louisiana, the use of a school-voucher system—in which 90 percent of the participants are Black—only served to further segregate schools, which has provided a greater disadvantage to young Black and Latino students.

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2 comments


  • I hope the fact that 20% of students speaking another language at home inspires more schools to begin second-language teaching sooner and better prepare them for the global economy. The US is far behind much of the world in this regard….

    Latino is not a race.. Latino can describe anyone from Argentinians (where a majority of whom are white) to Brazilians (where many are a majority Black ancestry). I’m not sure what the exact racial demographics of US Latinos is but even a small percentage of them being white would still add up to a white majority in public schools.

    While the article does specify that the majority of public students is no longer “non-Hispanic Whites,” the title of the article itself is incorrect.

  • Sylvia Scott

    Question for you Luke: Have you considered the number of people pulling their kids out of public schools and enrolling them into private and charter schools? Facts show the U.S. public schools are not educating kids properly while those going to alternative schools are getting better educations. This equates to single sex schools (which are known to be integrated) schools of faith, and home schooling. Private girl’s schools and those that are faith-based have scholarship programs for low-income. I’ve spoken at charter schools in S.CA that are integrated as well as boarding schools. In fact the boarding schools are often kids from low-income and have no problem being integrated with students from different cultures.

    You fail to mention for example in Boston, Asian and white parents pull their kids out of Boston proper schools usually when they hit middle school. It has nothing to do with color, race or ethnicity. It has to do with the education system. I’ve experienced it teaching in an after school program and trying to raise funds for it. Your article is skewed and needs more explanation.

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