A New School Year, a New Racial Landscape

More than half of all public school students this fall will be Hispanic, Asian, African American, Native American, or multiracial.

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Sixty-two percent of the total U.S. population was classified as non-Hispanic white in 2013. And when public schools start this fall, their racial landscape will reflect a changing America.

According to a new report by the National Center for Education (NCES), minorities—Hispanics, Asians, African American, Native Americans, and multiracial individuals—will account for 50.3 percent of public school students. To break this down by grade levels, minorities will make up 51 percent of pre-kindergarteners through 8th graders and 48 percent of 9th through 12th graders.

(Pew Research Center)

This change in enrollment comes amidst a growth in the percentage of U.S.-born Hispanics and Asians in the overall populationBetween 2012 and 2013, the Hispanic population grew by 2.1 percent and the Asian population grew by 2.9 percent. And reflecting these numbers, public schools will see big hikes in Asian and Hispanic students between 2011 and 2022. Hispanic students will rise by 33 percent, Asian/Pacific Islanders by 20 percent, multiracial students by 44 percent, and African Americans by 2 percent between 2011 and 2022. Meanwhile the number of Caucasians is projected to decrease by 6 percent and that of American Indian/Alaska Natives to decrease by 5 percent.

(National Center for Education)

Hispanics and Asians are also forecast to produce the biggest increase in high school graduates: between 2009-2010 and 2022-2023, there will be an increase of 64 percent in Hispanic graduates and 23 percent in Asian/Pacific Islander grads.

However, this demographic change raises some concernsHispanic, black, and Native American students tend to academically fall behind (pdf) their white and Asian counterpartsAnd Hispanic and black students tend to live and attend schools in areas of greater poverty than whitesLeaders in education need to tackle some key issues regarding academic and economic disparities between minorities and whites, not to mention racial division and resource availability.

Top image: MorganStudio/Shutterstock.com

This post originally appeared on Quartz, an Atlantic partner site. 

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About the Author

  • Jeanne Kim is an editorial fellow with Quartz.