As diversity increases, will U.S. be more or less politically divided?

GWEN IFILL: America is in the midst of rapid change, politically and demographically, as the nation grows dramatically more diverse, more educated, and older.

Two research organizations with normally divergent views combined to produce a new study that shows the far-reaching implications of that shift.

Karlyn Bowman analyzes public opinion for the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute and Ruy Teixeira is a senior fellow at the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress.

I find this so interesting. I just want to walk through some of your findings one at a time.

The big one I noticed was that majority minority states, that is, the number of states which have a minority population — a majority minority population, are going to increase. I think it starts at — right now, we have four states which meet that, California, New Mexico, Texas, and Hawaii.

And by — let me see, let me get this right — it's be 20 — in 2060, it's going to account for two-thirds of the country's population. That's 22 states we're talking about.

Karlyn Bowman, that's a big change.

KARLYN BOWMAN, American Enterprise Institute: That's one of the big takeaways from this work that we have been doing that really in particular has done with Bill Frey of the Brookings Institution. And I think that's one of the biggest takeaways from the survey.

GWEN IFILL: What does it mean?  What's the significance of that?

KARLYN BOWMAN: Well, it has both political consequences, economic consequences, and consequences for the private market. It will affect every aspect of society going forward.

GWEN IFILL: Ruy Teixeira?

RUY TEIXEIRA, Center for American Progress: Yes, I think that's definitely true.

When you're looking at a country that is going to have, as you say, 22 majority minority states, including such states we would never think of in that context, like Oklahoma, by the time we get a few decades down the line, when you're going to have 10 other states that are going to be more than 40 percent minority by 2060, when children are going to be two-thirds minority by 2060, surely, this is a country that is in the throes of such dramatic change that the parties will be forced to respond, the parties will be forced compete for these emerging constituencies, for these new voters.

The Democrats will have to deliver for the constituencies that currently favor them. And I believe Republicans will have to compete much more vigorously for their votes, because really that is our future and the future cannot be ignored.

GWEN IFILL: I want to get back to that point about children, but first walk me through one of these states. You said Oklahoma, for instance. What is it that's driving this shift?

RUY TEIXEIRA: Well, Oklahoma is a very interesting state, because, like a lot of states, you do have a burgeoning Hispanic population.

But actually what's going to be more important in Oklahoma is a group we call Asian/other, which is a combination of not only Asians, but also multiracial and Native American. It happens that in Oklahoma, you have the Native American population, which is growing quite fast, playing a leading role in leading Oklahoma in this direction.

You see some of the same dynamics in a place like South Dakota or a place like Arizona. Actually, Native Americans are going to be part of an increasingly important part of the constituencies in those states.

GWEN IFILL: Karlyn Bowman, let's talk about the diversification of children.

In 1980, 25 percent of the children in this country were minorities. In right now, 2014, it was 26 percent, but, by 2060, it's going to be 65 percent of the children are going to be non-white.

KARLYN BOWMAN: Again, another extraordinary change over this period of time.

Of course, children aren't old enough to vote, but they will be at a particular time. When they turn 18, they will be eligible, and that is, again, a major change that we're looking at going forward.

GWEN IFILL: But is it — are there policy implications for having that many children, people under the age of 18 who are color?

KARLYN BOWMAN: Oh, I think that there are extraordinary implications in terms of schooling, in terms of workplace preparation, marketing and the like.

GWEN IFILL: OK. Well, let's go on. I want to talk about another interesting finding, which is the decline of the white working class.

I find that interesting because the reason why the white working class is declining is not because fewer people of color — or more people of color are getting degrees. It's because more white people are getting degrees. You have to explain it. I didn't explain it well.


Well, yes. No, picture this. Back in 1980, three-quarters, three of every four American eligible voters was a white non-college or working-class individual, 75 percent — almost 75 percent. That's down to maybe 46 or 47 percent today, a decline of 26 points. So, it's huge.

What's caused that?  Well, on the other hand, there are fewer white people. So, that drives it. But the other thing is the dramatic rise in educational attainment. A third of Americans in 1980 were high school dropouts. That's down to 10 percent today; 14 percent were — had a four-year degree or more. Now that's more than doubled to 30 percent.

This dramatic increase in the educational attainment of the population has pushed down the non-college share of the population, just as the white share of the population is being pushed down. And those two things together produce this dramatic decline in the white working class, such that over every presidential cycle now, we're losing about 3 percentage points of share in the white working class, every single presidential cycle. So that's a pretty dramatic rate of decline.

KARLYN BOWMAN: Getting a high school degree used to be part of the American dream. And of course today it's getting a college degree. And you see that we have just made these extraordinary strides with a very different population.

GWEN IFILL: Another part of the American dream used to be getting married and having 2.4 children. And now it turns out that in 1974, 70 percent of us were married and 30 percent were unmarried.

Now, in 2014, it's 48 percent are married, and the majority, 52 percent, are unmarried. Does that have policy implications?

KARLYN BOWMAN: Of course it does. And it certainly has political implications overall.

This is the eligible voter population. If you look at actual voters, you still have more people who are married than unmarried. But again the growth of the unmarried population I think has very significant implications politically as we move forward.

GWEN IFILL: Does that mean that our politics is going to be necessarily more divided than it even is now, as a result of the country going in separate directions?

RUY TEIXEIRA: Well, actually, I think you could maybe see a little bit of that in the short-term, the polarization, particularly around different racial groups and so on, but actually my view is that over a somewhat longer time period, we will become less divided, not more divided.

And this is because of the factor I was previously mentioning, that the parties are going to have to compete for a much more diverse set of voters. They are going to have to compete for the minority vote. They are going to have to compete for the unmarried vote.

GWEN IFILL: Do you see it that way, as a Republican, really?

KARLYN BOWMAN: I do too. I'm optimistic. Yes, I do.

GWEN IFILL: So — but there are those political folks who look at this and say that Republicans are in the wrong place now in terms of who is voting for them and who is voting for — and that Democrats are in a better position to take advantage of this kind of shift. Do you disagree?

KARLYN BOWMAN: No, I don't disagree.

I think that Republicans have some significant problems going ahead. And as the Democratic National Committee reported on Saturday, the Democrats, in looking at their performance in 2014, realize they have some very serious problems going ahead. But certainly in terms of presidential politics, Republicans are going to have to do better with the minority vote going forward.

GWEN IFILL: Is our demography our destiny?  I know this is a question demographers like to ask. Let me ask you this first.

KARLYN BOWMAN: I'm not sure demography is destiny, but you really need to pay attention to population changes.


RUY TEIXEIRA: Yes. No, I agree with Karlyn, as I usually do on these things.

Demography is a huge factor. It drives a lot of things. It structures the terrain. It must be taken account of. It must be reckoned with. But to say that it's destiny is just wrong. It's just not the case. And I hope there are no Democrats out there who think this, because I think they would be kidding themselves that just because there will be more minority voters and unmarried voters, let's just do nothing and politics will be dominated by us forever.

Not true. Look what happened in 2010 and 2014. Any given election can be contested if the parties, I think, reach strongly enough for the center. I just think the center is shifting, and both parties will have to take that into account.

GWEN IFILL: Ruy Teixeira of the Center for American Progress, and Karlyn Bowman of the American Enterprise Institute, thank you both for bringing this to us.

RUY TEIXEIRA: Thank you.


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