Hispanics for the first time will become California's largest ethnic group by the end of the year, according to a report on California's shifting demographics contained in Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) 2013-14 budget proposal
The most populous U.S. state's Hispanic and white non-Hispanic populations will reach parity in July, each with about 39 percent of the population, the report projected. California's Hispanics are predominantly younger than the non-Hispanic white population, assuring the trend will continue. Only 19 percent of Hispanics are older than age 50, compared with 43 percent of whites, the report said.
"One of the positive attributes of California’s cultural diversity is that not everyone gets old at once," the authors of the report wrote. "That also means the workplace will change, as many in the non‐Hispanic white population retire, they will be replaced by a more diverse workforce."
"It's a seismic shift, period," Larry Gerston, professor of California politics at San Jose State and author of "Not So Golden After All: The Rise And Fall of California," told The Huffington Post."We're talking about demographic changes that will be reflected in a demographically changed legislature.
Gerston noted that the growing electoral power of Hispanics -- a group that made up 12 percent of the electorate in 1998 and 20 percent in 2012 -- has led to increasing political muscle for the population.
Brown's proposed education reform, which would have the effect of shifting state money from rich school districts to poorer ones, will likely get a major boost from Latinos -- making the controversial bill's passage significantly easier.
The continued demographic shift presents a problem for California's increasingly endangered Republican Party, because the state's Hispanic population leans Democratic. "Latinos are a window for the GOP that's rapidly closing," explained Gerston. "Unless Republicans can pick issues that Latinos can identify with, it'll be almost impossible for them to gain a majority."
There were 5.9 million eligible Hispanic voters in California in 2012, the largest block of any state, according to an analysis of California Latino voting habits. That number comprises 42 percent of California's total population of Hispanics. In contrast, 80 percent of California whites are eligible to vote.
The growth of California's Hispanic population presents significant challenges for the state, especially when it comes to education. A study by Washington-based Excelencia in Education found that only 16 percent of California Latinos hold a college degree, lagging well behind the 39 percent figure of the state as a whole. Worse, the study noted, the percentage of Hispanics attaining college degrees is by some measures declining.
Hispanics constitute more than half of the state's grade school students. "It's increasingly urgent for this state to get serious about Hispanic kids because they are the ones doing the least well in school," Patricia Gandara, UCLA professor and author of "The Latino Education Crisis: The Consequences of Failed Social Policies," explained to New American Media, noting that one-quarter of California Latino high school students drop out.
Although Hispanics will soon be California's largest ethic group, they are no longer the fastest-growing segment of the state population. In 2001, 57 percent of all the immigrants into California were from Asia.