Demographic Knowledge, Latino/a Growth, and the Politics of the "Browning of America"

Michael Rodriguez, Brown University

For decades, demographers have forecast that the United States is undergoing a dramatic demographic transformation, as ethnoracial “minorities” are expected to numerically surpass the white “majority” within decades. Traveling far beyond the academy, the circulation of such projections has fueled growing anxieties and anticipations over the so-called “Browning of America.” With a focus on public representations and controversies about Latino population growth, I analyze the public translation of demographic findings and track the diverse political valences given to “demographic change” in the wake of the 2010 census. Drawing on data from an 18-month qualitative and ethnographic project – composed of discourse analysis of media, in-depth interviews with key informants, and participant observation – this paper provides a timely and detailed account of the meanings and politics of “demographic change.” Above all, it demonstrates some of the ways that demographic statistics and projections have influentially intervened in contemporary U.S. ethnoracial politics.

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Presented in Session 112: Measuring Race and Ethnicity