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Our Voices

Recognition and respect of different racial and ethnic cultural groups is important for developing quality youth development supports, opportunities, programs and services in a culturally competent manner.

This requires an understanding of culturally based strengths, assets, resources and desires of specific groups rather than imagined or perceived problems or risks, as well as focusing on principles that assist in transforming our way of thinking:

  • Acknowledging culture as a prevailing factor in shaping behaviors, values, and institutions.
  • Understanding when the values of the dominant culture are in conflict with those of diverse cultural groups.
  • Respecting the culturally defined needs of a particular community.
  • Conducting cultural self-assessment, acknowledging, and accepting that cultural differences exist, and have an impact on how services are delivered and received.
  • Recognizing that the concepts of individual, family, and community often differ across cultural groups.
  • Adapting services to fit the cultural diversity of the youth, families and communities served.
  • Institutionalizing cultural knowledge in self, organizations, and systems.

Fast Facts

In 2020, there were 74 million children in the United States*. These children were more racially and ethnically diverse than ever before.

  • Children of color made up 49.7 percent of all children in 2018.
  • 37 million children were white (50.3 percent); 18.7 million were Hispanic (25.5 percent); 10.1 million were Black (13.7 percent); 3.7 million were Asian (5.1 percent); 3.2 million were two or more races (4.3 percent); 616,236 were American Indian/Alaska Native (<1 percent); and 147,258 were Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander (<1 percent).
  • The majority of children under 18 were children of color in 14 states—Alaska, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Texas and the District of Columbia.
  • More than half of the 19.8 million children under 5 were children of color, making them “majority minority.”
  • It was projected that by the middle of 2020, non-whites would account for the majority of the nation's 74 million children. As of 2019, the non-Hispanic white population comprised only slightly more than three-fifths (60.4%) of all U.S. residents (PBS, January 2020).
  • In the coming decades, the percentage of all white children will drop – from 49.8% in 2020 to 36.4% in 2060 (PBS, January 2020).

* Source: The State of America’s Children. 2020. Children’s Defense Fund

 

The State of Racial and Ethnic Youth in the United States**

Learn about demographics, common experiences, cultural practices, and beliefs of four distinct cultural groups:

  • African American
    • For many years, African Americans were the largest minority group in the U.S., with a total 2016 estimated population of over 42 million adults and a youth population of around 10 million (U.S. Census Bureau, 2017).

    • Between 2000 and 2010, African American citizens accounted for approximately 13% of the U.S. population.

    • Currently, Latino/as have replaced African Americans as the largest minority group.

    • By 2050, it is projected that the African American youth population will continue to decrease from 14% of the total youth population to 13.1% (Pew Research Center, 2015).

    •  Currently, Texas, Georgia, Florida, New York, and North Carolina are the states that represent the largest populations of African American youth under the age of 18 (Kids Count, 2017a).

    Historical Context

    Throughout history, racial identification of African Americans by the U.S. government has been controversial.The 1970 Census was the first time individuals could self-identify their race. Before that time, Census takers filled out the forms and chose the category for each person based on their observed physical characteristics. For example:

    • 1790 – the Census designated this cultural group based on their status as free persons or as slaves. African Americans were counted as only three-fifths of a person.

    • Early 1850s – Use of the terms Black and Mulatto, defined as “all persons having any trace of African blood,” were used to indicate people of color.

    • 1890 and 1900 – The terms quadroon (1/4 trace of black blood or one black grandparent) and octoroon (1/8 trace of black blood or one black great-grandparent) were used to identify African Americans.

    • 1930 – the term Negro was introduced and was used to reflect any individual of African heritage regardless of the amount of “Negro blood” present.

    • Late 1960s and early 1970s – African Americans began recognizing their Black identity in a celebratory way, which gave rise to the Black Power movement. People began encouraging the use of the term Black instead of Negro.

    • 1980 Census – provided several different terms to reflect the growing awareness of self-identification among Blacks.

    • 1980s – the term Black evolved into Afro-American, as many citizens attempted to trace their ancestral roots back to Africa after the 1976 publication of the novel, Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley and its subsequent 1977 television miniseries.

    • 1988 – Jesse Jackson announced that “African American” was the new preferred term for Black Americans due to the term’s focus on an ancestral home country and a cultural heritage.

    Today there is disagreement on which specific term, Black or African American, should be used for this cultural group. The terms Negro and Colored are considered derogatory and should no longer be used. However, the 2010 U.S. Census still used “Negro” as a racial category. The 2020 U.S. Census, however, asks respondents who identify as white or Black/African American to provide supplemental detail about their racial/ethnic origins.

  • Asian Americans
    • According to the U.S. Census (2017), the Asian American population is the fastest growing racial group in the U.S., growing 2.2% between July 2014 and 2015, and with an overall population increase of 43% since 2000 (Hoeffel, Rastogi, Kim, & Shahid, 2012).

    • The Census also projects the Asian American population will reach 40 million people by the year 2050 and that immigration from Asian countries will account for nearly 75% of the U.S. population growth (Pew Research Center, 2015).

    • The Asian American population includes people with origins in:

      • The Far East (China, Japan, and Korea)

      • Southeast Asia (Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam)

      • South Asia (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal)

    • The Asian youth population is growing rapidly and at a faster rate than all other racial/ethnic groups in the U.S.

    • Its total share of the youth population increased by 43% from 2000 to 2010.

    • Since 2010, Asian, non-Hispanic children have increased from 3.5% of all U.S. children to 5% in 2016.

    • By 2020, they are projected to represent 5% of all U.S. children and increase to 9.3% by 2060.

    Historical Context

    Unique cultural characteristics and languages, as well as the historical, sociopolitical and economic conditions of their native countries, shape the experiences of people with different Asian ethnic backgrounds.The term Asian American is an umbrella term that refers to all the Asian ethnic groups currently in the U.S. (e.g., Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Samoan, etc.). One of the first terms used to describe this cultural group was Oriental, and reflected the people and all goods and services that were derived from Asia.

    • The term Oriental was deemed inappropriate during the 1970s due to its negative and discriminatory historical use.

    • In 2016, President Barack Obama signed legislation outlawing the term Oriental (as well as Negro) from all federal laws.>/p>

    • Recently, the term Asian American was also considered a monolithic term that assumes all Asian Americans are homogeneous, much like the term Hispanic is used for Latino/a Americans.

    Another term that is used in conjunction with Asian Americans is model minority, which assumes that Asian Americans are all high achieving, economically sound, and the least likely to be in poverty or commit crimes of all the minority groups. However, the term model minority should not be used due to its potential for masking issues within specific Asian ethnic communities. For example:

    • 3% of the Vietnamese American population live in poverty.

    • 5% of Filipino Americans and 12.1% of all Asians live in poverty.

  • Latino/a Americans
    • The Latino/a community is the largest minority group in the U.S. comprising about 17.1% of the total U.S. population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2017).

    • The Latino/a youth population comprises 25% of the total youth population in the U.S.

    • According to the Pew Research Center, Hispanics have accounted for more than half of total U.S. population growth since 2010.

    • Of the 54.6 million Latino/as in the U.S., nearly two-thirds (64%) are of Mexican origin, with:

      • 4% of Puerto Rican origin

      • 7% Cuban

      • 6% Salvadoran

      • 0% Dominican

      • Between 1.2% to 2.2% each for Guatemalans, Colombians, Hondurans, Ecuadorians, and Peruvians

      • The remainder originated from other Central and South American countries.

    • Approximately 18 million Latino/as are younger than 18 years of age, with the median age being 28 years old.

    • The states with the largest population of Latino/a youth are California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Illinois.

    • Latino/a Americans are concentrated in three metro areas: Los Angeles, New York City, and Miami-Dade (Motel & Patten, 2012).

    Historical Context

    • 1970s – The term Hispanic was officially designated by the U.S. Census and served as an umbrella term for over 20 different Spanish-speaking nationalities.

    • Late 1960s and early 1970s – The term Chicano was created during the Brown Power/Chicano movement by Mexican American activists. This term became popularized during the farmworker strikes and youth movement led by Cesar Chavez. During this time, Chicano was used to demonstrate political consciousness and to reflect pride in the shared identity of Mexican and American cultures.

    • 2016 – the term Latinx emerged to reflect a more gender-neutral terminology for inclusiveness within the Spanish language.

    Many people view the use of the term Hispanic in a monolithic manner, implying that all Spanish-speaking peoples have a uniform cultural, social and political heritage. In fact, the people categorized under this term come from diverse backgrounds and have different educational patterns, religious views, socioeconomic statuses, and languages.

    Latino/a is often preferred by members of this cultural group rather than Hispanic for describing people of Spanish descent in the U.S.

    Regional Identity

    The use of identity terms for Latino/a groups is regionally based. The preference for particular terms may vary by region within the U.S. and by country of origin. For example, the terms:

    • Chicano and Mexican American are used primarily in California

    • Latin American or Latino/a in Texas

    • Mexican in Arizona

    • Cuban and Puerto Rican in Florida

    • Spanish American in New Mexico

    Terminology used to identify individuals of Latino/a descent may be further complicated by imposed racial categories (e.g., Black Puerto Rican) and the different racial designations used in other countries (e.g., someone who is Black in the U.S. may be White in Brazil, since variations in skin tone are interpreted differently in different countries).

  • Native Americans and Alaskan Natives
    • Approximately 6.7 million people self-identify as Native American and Alaskan Native alone or in combination with some other race, representing 2% of the U.S. population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2017b). Some of these individuals belong to federally recognized tribes, while others belong to state recognized tribes, or are not enrolled in any tribe.

    • Over two million are members and descendants of federally recognized tribes and qualify for access to certain federal benefits and services such as health care through the U.S. Indian Health Service.

    • There are currently 567 federally recognized sovereign tribal groups across 36 states, of which 229 are Alaskan Native tribes (Indian Entities Recognized and Eligible to Receive Services, 2017).

    A federally recognized tribe is a tribal entity that is recognized as having a government-to-government relationship with the U.S. through binding treaties, acts of Congress, and executive orders. Therefore, these tribes possess certain inherent rights of self-government and are eligible for funding, services and protection from the U.S. There are also 200 non-federally recognized tribes in the U.S. that are in the process of applying for federal recognition. Nevertheless, Native Americans and Alaskan Natives remain a mostly invisible group within U.S. society.

    Historical Context

    Preferred terms for the indigenous people of the Americas have been controversial, changed over time, and vary by region, tribal designation and age of individual.

    Terms such as Native American, Indian, Indian Americans, American Indian, Aboriginals and AmerIndian, as well as Eskimo and Alaskans, have been interchangeable throughout history. Today the terms Native American, First Nations and/or First People are more common.

    • 1860 – The U.S. Census was the first time that Native Americans living in areas near White colonizers were counted and were referred to as Indian. Native Americans were counted by U.S. marshals as part of a special Indian Census, with the condition that Native Americans renounce their tribal affiliation; many refused (Jobe, 2004). This led the U.S. to begin federally recognizing tribes and their members in order to establish land agreements.

    • 1900 – the U.S. had begun focusing on the distinction between full- and mixed-blood Native Americans to determine purity for tribal membership and the degree to which they had adopted a European immigrant lifestyle.

    • 1924 – The Indian Citizenship Act declared all Native Americans born in U.S. territories as citizens, granting them the right to vote. This act was the first time the U.S. government recognized this cultural group’s right to citizenship. Native American tribes and villages could also grant citizenship to its enrolled tribal members.

    • 1950 – the Census changed the racial designation to American Indian and Alaskan Native/Eskimos.

    • Late 1960s – During the American Indian Movement the term American Indian was encouraged by varying tribal groups in order to promote a panIndian identification.

    • The percentage of Native American youth (currently about 400,000) is expected to decrease to 0.8% percent by 2020 and 0.7% by 2050.

    • While Native American youth represent a very small population, Native American youth are amongst the most negatively affected in terms of poverty, family structure, and educational attainment.

    Native Americans living on reservations and Native Americans living in the general population have been separately identified in the Census. Those living on the reservation were typically viewed as still identifying with tribal affiliations and were noted as full blooded “Native American.” However, those considered “pure blood” (i.e., full-blooded Native American) or “mixed breed” (of a mixed tribal or racial origin) who lived in local towns or cities among Whites were identified based on blood purity and their degree of assimilation. For example, people of mixed heritage, such as White and Native American, were designated as Indians on the Census. Exceptions occurred if a Native American had become integrated into the local European immigrant community and was viewed and accepted as being White by the residents.

**This information serves as a general guide to provide insight into contextual elements and forces that shape youth development.