LOS ANGELES – For the first time since California became a state in 1850, Latinos will surpass whites as the largest ethnic group by 2014, according to demographic numbers released Thursday.
The state Department of Finance estimates that by the middle of this year, whites and Latinos will each represent about 39 percent of California population, with Latinos reaching a plurality soon after that.
Officials expected that by 2060, Latinos will make up 48 percent of the state’s population.
As the white baby boomer population moves into retirement, Latinos and Asians will play an even bigger role in the state’s labor force, according to the state report.
In 2030, there will be 9.6 million Latinos in the prime working ages of 25 to 64; whites will have 7.2 million and Asians will have 3.1 million, the report said. By 2060, there will be 12.1 million Latinos in that working group, compared to 7.4 million whites and 3.2 million Asians.
Experts said these shifts will bring fundamental changes to the demographics of the workplace, as many baby boomers – the majority of whom are white – retire.
“This should serve as a wake-up call and appreciate how the older generation needs the younger generation,” said University of Southern California demography and urban planning professor Dowell Myers.
The more educated and prosperous this younger generation is, the more they can contribute to California tax base as the baby boomers’ contributions decrease, Myers said.
“Without the babies born to those immigrant mothers, we would really be in deep trouble,” he added.
Myers and others said the projections underscore the importance of education in helping the future workforce be as productive as possible.
The report also predicted a significant age gap among different ethnic groups.
By 2030 there will be 7.2 million Latinos under the age of 25 compared to 2.2 million who will be 65 or older. By comparison, 4.1 million of the white population will be 65 or older and 3.8 million will be less than 25 years old.
The rise of California’s Latino population has been apparent for decades. And news that they will surpass whites in total population has been predicted for some time.
The report also included some new growth projections for the state as a whole.
California’s population will reach nearly 52.7 million by 2060, crossing the 50 million threshold by 2049, the study found.