by Mike Swift |
"Which one do you want?" Porras says to 2 1/2-year-old Alicia Molina Correa, holding up a game and a puzzle with children on it. "Cuál quieres, el juego o los niños?"
State demographers predict Latinos will be a majority of Californians by mid-century, but in preschool classrooms like Porras', the future is now.
For the first time in modern history, most of the babies being born in
2004 was the first full year when the number of babies born to
Every toddler in Porras'
"The implications for the future are: We aren't talking about an ethnic immigrant community, but an ethnic citizen community," said Harry Pachon, president of the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute in Los Angeles, a think tank that studies issues relating to Latinos.
But with more than 40 percent of Latinos marrying into other ethnic groups, Pachon thinks the emerging majority will remake racial and ethnic identity in
Judy Bugarin, a 40-year veteran of early childhood education and director of the Parkway Child Development Programs for
"Our goal is that they become fluent in English by the time they're ready for kindergarten," Bugarin said as she watched Porras introduce children to English by saying each phrase in correct English before repeating it in Spanish. "That's where we're trying to close the achievement gap, by supporting English so they can do well in school."
Changing image: Latino birthrate shaping future
Demographer Bill Frey remembers the photo on a national magazine story about
"It's not the Beach Boys; it's not the Valley Girls," said Frey, of the Brookings Institution in
Nearly 100,000 fewer babies were born to white mothers in
The baby boomers were followed by a much smaller cohort - the "baby bust" of the late 1960s and '70s. For that group of whites and African-Americans now in their prime childbearing years, there are fewer potential parents. Migration of whites and blacks from
Partly because of immigration, Latinos and Asians are less subject to the generational ebbs and flows that whites and African-Americans are. And although their fertility rates in
"Many of the new immigrants have lower education levels, and those women in general have tended to have more babies," said William Clark, a professor of geography at UCLA.
Demographers say that two decades from now, as Latino children born this decade begin having families and buying houses, the strength of the state's housing market and economy will rest increasingly on their educational and economic success.
Dowell Myers, a professor of policy and planning at the
"If the aging baby boomers want to hold onto their high home prices," said Myers, "they really better hope that the future generation of Latinos is college-educated."
The last year when whites made up a majority of the births in
That ethnic transition is happening unevenly across the state, however. In
Already, a strong majority - about 58 percent - of California Latinos are native-born
"If there are fewer people competing for jobs in Mexico, that would drive up wages and that would mean fewer people migrating to the United States," said Laura Hill, a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California.
The surge in Latino births is being felt at places like Familiar Footsteps, a preschool on
"A cultural mix, that's what it is," said preschool teacher Veronica Ortiz, who does half her instruction in English and half in Spanish.
By late afternoon at the
The center, which still has about 200 subsidized slots available for the fall, is limited to children from families with incomes below about $48,300 a year for a family of four. But although family incomes are limited, several parents who spoke one recent afternoon said their aspirations for their children are not.
Monica Marin, a native of Mexico who lives in San Jose, sighed with fatigue as she ticked off the things she is doing for her energetic and gregarious 5-year-old son, Jordan, who was born here - swimming lessons, soccer and read-along sessions at the library.
Marin hopes they will all be steps that carry
"I want," she said, "the same for him."