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Millennial diversity making generation almost a majority-minority group

The nation's millennials are making us a much more diverse nation, marking a shift in demographic patterns that shows fewer white children and more born to racial minorities.

A study from demographer William Frey, based on 2015 census data and published by the Brookings Institution in Washington this week, found that millennials - those aged between 18 and 34 - are ushering in an era that is quickly making America a "majority-minority nation," and one with its own new views on issues facing the nation.

"The rapid growth of minorities from the 'bottom up' of the age structure is creating a racial generation gap between the old and young that reflects the nation’s changing demography," Frey wrote.

"This gap is spilling over into national politics with older white Americans resonating differently than younger minorities on issues like government spending, affirmative action, and immigration," he added, calling racial diversity the millennials' most-defining characteristic.

Frey, a senior fellow in Brookings' Metropolitan Policy Program, found that this age group "makes up 27 percent of the total minority population, 38 percent of voting age minorities, and a whopping 43 percent of primary working age minorities."

What caused the shift is that millennials were born during a time period when immigration was on the rise and white births were more modest, Frey said of their growth.

"More white children are aging past 18 than are being born or immigrating," he added. "Although white fertility is low, it is the aging of the white population, with proportionately fewer women in their childbearing years, that is leading to a projected long-term continuation of this trend."

Of their racial make-up in 2015, millennials are 55.8 percent white with 30 percent of Asian, Hispanic or mixed race. In 1990, their 18- to 34-year-old age group was 73 percent white; a decade later, that figure had dipped to 63 percent.

Their diverse population is reflected differently across the states, the census data showed. Minority-majority child populations are now seen in 14 states, while the post-millennial minority population comprises three-fourths of those in California and two-thirds of those living in Texas, Frey's research found.

Also noteworthy: "Overall, 25 states house post-millennial populations that are more than 40 percent minority and in only four (New Hampshire, Maine, West Virginia, and Vermont) is this generation largely white," Frey reported.

Data on millennials is coveted by demographers as well marketers, who crave knowing what they want and why. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation said they are "likely the most studied generation to date."

They are also described as "contradictory," "optimistic" and masters at self-promotion, and stand out because they are technical natives. "A wired, connected world is all that millennials have ever known," the Chamber said in a Millennial Generation Research Review that found that 80 percent sleep with their cellphones.

The chamber report also noted their racial shift, adding in its report that "11 percent of Millennials are born to at least one immigrant parent."

In a presidential election cycle, the impact of millennials coming of age amid a conversation on immigration and the economy, is also being much-watched by politicos and consultants alike.

Historically, they do not show up at the polls in large numbers — hitting a record turnout in the 2008 election cycle that ushered in the presidency of Barack Obama, according to a study released in May by the Pew Research Center.

This year, 69.2 million Millennials can vote, but will they? Their numbers are nearly that of Baby Boomers who are 69.7 million strong, Pew said.

"While it might be a slam-dunk that Millennials soon will be the largest generation in the electorate, it will likely be a much longer time before they are the largest bloc of voters," wrote Pew senior researcher Richard Fry. "It is one thing to be eligible to vote and another entirely to cast a ballot."