If California K-12 public school enrollment is any indicator, then the state school population is not getting more diverse, it is becoming more monolithic. The state portion of Hispanic/Latino students increased from a small plurality to a clear majority over almost two decades; at the same time the enrollment of White, non-Hispanic/Latino students has fallen substantially. These changes were even more pronounced locally.
For at least the past 18 years, those two demographics — Hispanic/Latino and White, non-Hispanic Latino students — have dominated California’s public school K-12 enrollment. Together they accounted for more than 79 percent of the state enrollments and more than 97 percent of enrollments in SBC in 1997-98 and those figures have changed very little since; however, the ratio between the two demographic groups has changed dramatically.
In 1997-98 there were 2.12 million Hispanic/Latino students making up 40.5 percent of California’s K-12 public school enrollment. By 2015-16, that number had risen to 3.36 million and the portion increased to 54.0 percent, a clear majority.
During the same period, White, non-Hispanic/Latino state enrollment fell from 2.31 million, 38.8 percent, to 1.50 million, 24.1 percent of enrollment.
San Benito County enrollment reflected those trends to a greater degree. In 1997-98, there were 5,650 Hispanic/Latino students, 53.9 percent of SBC K-12 public school enrollment. By 2015-2016 that number had risen to 8,049, equal to 72.4 percent, a super-majority.
During that same period, White, non-Hispanic/Latino county enrollment in SBC fell from 4,537, equal to 43.3 percent, to 2,232, equal to only 20.1 percent, a drop of more than half.
Demographics are dynamic, they are constantly changing and the two major groups were headed in opposite directions in the state and county; the Hispanic/Latino demographic increasing and the White, non-Hispanic/Latino demographic decreasing.
In July 2011 “minorities—defined as anyone who is not a single-race non-Hispanic white—made up 50.4 percent of the nation’s population younger than age 1,” according to the Pew Research Center. Additionally, “Hispanics are more than a quarter of the nation’s youngest residents… accounting for 26.3 percent of the population younger than age 1.”
Much of this comes down to immigration, fertility rates and birth rates. The majority (53 percent) of California’s immigrants were born in Latin America and fertility rates were 2.4 for Hispanics and 1.8 for Whites as of 2010.
Another possible impact is that California’s birth rate has reached an historic low. The state’s birth rate declined to 12.42 births per 1,000 population in 2016 — the lowest in California history. In 2010, the birth rate was 13.69 per 1,000 population. Those changes in birth rates are typically slower to come to new immigrant populations.
(Demographic Data Source: California Department of Education)