Changing Demographics

I was looking through my bookmarks and found this article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution and thought it was worth sharing.  


South:  First U.S. Region with Majority Low-Income and Minority Students

by Maureen Downey – January 6, 2010.

In a new report released today, the Southern Education Foundation declares the South the first region in the country in which more than half of public school students are poor and more than half are minorities.

By the end of the 2009 school year, African-American, Latino, Asian-Pacific Islander, American Indian and multi-racial children constituted a little more than half of all students attending public schools in the 15 states of the South.

That demographic change will create strains on educators still grappling with how to teach disadvantaged students. It could also increase the move to privatization in Georgia if middle-class parents begin to feel that public schools are overwhelmed by the challenges of poor students.

Among the highlights of the report:

For the first time in the nation’s history, children “of color” constitute a new diverse majority of those enrolled in the South’s public schools. This shift is largely due to a dramatic increase of Latinos, Asian Pacific Islanders, and other population groups in the region. Most students in this new majority are also low income. These transformations establish the South as the first and only region in the nation ever to have both a majority of low income students and a majority of students of color enrolled in public schools. Four Southern states (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Georgia) now have a majority of both low income students and students of color.

Long the region with the most egregious record of depriving African Americans of access to equal, high-quality public education, the South now faces a problem of education inequality and underdevelopment of its human capital of unparalleled dimension. If the South and the nation fail to come to terms with the educational needs of the new majority of diverse public school students described in this report, the impact on the region’s and nation’s economy, global competitiveness, quality of life, and democratic institutions, will be catastrophic. This is not hyperbole.

Already the South is home to 40 percent of the nation’s low income people and has among the lowest educational achievement and attainment levels in the nation. Class and race are more often than not accurate indicators of the quality of public education afforded to students.

The number of students of color has grown more rapidly in public schools in the South than in any other region. In 2000, African American, Latino, and other non-White students made up 44 percent of the public school’s student body in the South. In 2008, this number had grown to 50 percent. In 2009, students of color constituted 51 percent of the South’s public schoolchildren. The rise in the number of students of color in the South is the result of a growing Latino population and a reversal of the historical decline in the number of Blacks. In 1980, less than six percent of the South’s residents were Hispanic.

By 1990, this percentage grew to about eight percent. In 2000, Latinos made up slightly more than 11 percent of the South’s population—almost double the region’s percentage of Hispanic population 20 years earlier. In 2008, 14.9 percent of the South’s population was Hispanic.

From 2000-2008, the Latino population increased faster in the South than in any other region. Higher rates of birth among the South’s Hispanic and African American populations in recent years explain a significant part of the increase in school enrollment. In 2007, women of color outside the 15 states of the South accounted for 44 percent of live births, while in the Southern states, half of all births were to women of color. Five of the six Southern states with a majority of students of color in the public schools in 2009 also were the states where a majority of births in 2007 were to women of color.

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