About every eight seconds, a baby is born in the United States. While it’s essentially impossible to know who that baby will be — on account of the fact that it is a baby and I can’t predict an individual baby’s future — we can talk about who that baby is right now. According to a new analysis from Pew Research Center, one-in-seven babies born in the U.S. is multiracial or multicultural. This translates to about fourteen percent of babies born in the United States whose parents are different races, as per the most recent census information from 2015.
That number has likely increased in the past two years as the number of multiracial babies continues to trend upward. In the past 35 years, that number has nearly tripled, as only five percent of babies born in 1980 were multiracial. In just the past 15 years, the number of newborns whose parents are different races has risen from the ten percent it was in 2000. For context, that’s about a 40 percent increase in the number of multiracial newborns since Willow Smith (or any other 17-year-old) was born.
Today’s baby who is multiracial likely has one parent who is white and one who is Hispanic. This was true of 42 percent of multiracial babies born in 2015, making it the largest demographic within newborns who are multiracial. There’s an even greater chance that baby has at least one parent who is Hispanic, as this was the case of 62 percent of all multiracial infants born in 2015.
More than one in five newborn babies (22 percent) have parents who themselves are multiracial. This is the second most common racial makeup of parents who gave birth to multiracial babies in 2015.
The rise in number of multiracial babies mirrors current trends in interracial marriage. According to the 2015 census, seventeen percent of all newlyweds in the U.S. married someone of a different race or ethnicity. That number varies depending on which racial demographic you look at. For example, 27 percent of Hispanic newlyweds in 2015 married someone who was not Hispanic, which seems to reflect similar trends in the number of multiracial babies who have at least one Hispanic parent.
2017 marks five decades since the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case on interracial marriage, Loving v. Virginia, which ruled bans on interracial marriage unconstitutional. Just 50 years ago, likely in the lifetime of your parents or grandparents, one-in-ten newlyweds and 14 percent of babies born today would have been illegal. While laws and views on interracial marriage have certainly changed since 1967, interracial relationships and babies that result from them are not unanimously viewed as a positive thing.
In a 2015 survey on race in America by Pew Research Center, 11 percent of people said they thought the trend toward more children with parents of different races was bad for society. Just to be clear, here’s that number one more time: more than one in ten people said the statistical increase in multiracial babies was bad for our society, in a survey conducted just two years ago. This mirrors the nine percent of people who say interracial marriage is also “bad for society.”
These number are very much the minority (22 percent saying the trend toward more interracial babies was a good thing, and 65 percent said it didn’t make much of a difference). However, it is significant when we talk about where we are currently as a culture and where we want to be.
When we talk about generations-to-come, we’re not just talking about the lofty idea of a hypothetical future baby. We’re talking about the baby born every eight seconds. We’re talking about the growing number of children whose racial identities will look significantly different than our own. So, when we talk about, say, the effects of climate change, we are talking about the future of people who are on this planet right now.
Looking at how far we've come is equally as important as recognizing how far we have to go. How can we create a culture that welcomes the changing faces of our future? What can we do today that will leave life better for the many tomorrows that are to come?