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K-8 students hit a milestone: About half are minorities

In a decade, the non-Hispanic white share of the K-8 population dropped from 56.7 percent to 49.9 percent, the Census bureau says
Children at the Mary D. Lang Kindergarten Center in Kennett Square, Pa.Matt Rourke / AP file

AUSTIN, Texas — The country’s steadily diversifying student population has hit a milestone: about half of kindergarten through eighth-grade students are racial and ethnic minorities.

The Census Bureau reported Tuesday that 49.9 percent of the K-8 students in 2017 were non-Hispanic white, down from 56.7 percent a decade earlier.

The nation’s demographically changing student population has been ongoing for years and attributed largely to the fast-growing Hispanic student population.

In the K-12 population, white, non-Hispanic students are 50.9 percent of the student body, a drop from 57.6 percent in 2007, according to the Census.

Meanwhile, the Hispanic student K-12 population rose from 19.9 percent to about a quarter in 2017.

Black, non-Hispanic students were 13.9 percent of the K-12 population, down from 14.9 in 2007. Asian non-Hispanic students were 5.1 percent last year, a slight increase from 4.1 percent 10 years earlier and those categorized as other, non-Hispanic rose to 5 percent, up from 3.6 percent a decade ago.

Student body demographics have become important to issues such as designing curricula relevant to students' backgrounds, determining resource needs and funding requirements, staff hiring and building extracurricular activities.

White, non-Hispanic students still are the majority in the country’s college undergraduate student population at 52.9 percent. Hispanic students are about a fifth of the population, 20.9 percent, 15.1 percent are black and 7.6 percent are Asian.

The gap is far larger for graduate students, with 61.2 percent white non-Hispanic, 13.6 percent Hispanic, 12.3 percent black and 11.2 percent Asian.