April 7, 2011 | Los Angeles Times | Original Article

Census analysis: Number of nonwhite children in L.A. area declines, bucking nationwide trend

The number of nonwhite children increased dramatically across the nation in the last decade, with one notable exception: Los Angeles.

An analysis, released Wednesday, of U.S. Census Bureau data showed that the number of nonwhite children had grown by almost 22% over the last decade, while the number of white children had declined by 4.3 million, or almost 10%.

But the study by the Brookings Institution singled out Greater Los Angeles as the only metropolitan area to have a declining Hispanic child population between 2000 and 2010. The numbers of white, black and Asian children also declined in the area.

There were about 3.4 million children in Greater Los Angeles in 2000, said William H. Frey, the study's author, and in 2010 the population was about 3.1 million.

Frey said that it was difficult to pinpoint why an area as diverse as Greater Los Angeles would see such a trend but that it may be a result of an aging white population and some middle-class minority populations leaving metropolitan areas.

"It's no longer white flight; it's middle-class flight," Frey said.

Over the last decade, the nation's white population grew by only 1.2%, far below the nation's overall growth rate of 9.7%. Demographers and analysts studying the data from the 2010 census say the nation's white population is steadily aging while there is significant growth in younger minority populations.

If it had not been for the 4.8 million Hispanic children born over the last decade, the Brookings study showed, the nation's youth population would have declined overall.

The Census Bureau has projected that the country will be minority white by 2042 and that the nation's youth will be minority white by 2023. But those changes could occur sooner than projected, according to the study, because of unexpected increases in minority populations.

Frey said the new trends could be useful indicators for school systems and policymakers who need to provide services for different youth populations and who need to "bridge the divide between older white residents who don't see the needs of some of those younger, more diverse populations."

He said California and Greater Los Angeles would probably be looked to as "guideposts" in how to best readjust to the demographic shifts, because the issue is not as fresh here.

"It's an old story for Los Angeles, but it's a new story for most of the rest of the country," Frey said.

California and the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana area are among 10 states and 35 metropolitan areas that have populations in which white children are minorities.

In California, 27% of all children are white, 6% are black, and 51% are Latino. In the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana area, 21% of children are white, 58% are Latino and 6% are black, according to the study.