Replacement theory in the US

“Replacement theory” is a semi-racist, often-hysterical belief that — in the US — White Christians will be “replaced” by others.

The racist part arises from the vapid conception of “race” and/or “White” which rests on no biological or scientific facts. As anyone can tell you, every country (or tribe or community) has its own ideas of race, purity, etc. (Here are some of my earlier thoughts on race.)

In the US, “race” discussions are dominated by its history of slavery, bigotry, migration and inequality, which means that “race” is often a code-word for some other issue that people would prefer not to address or solve, since that would require concern, action and sacrifice. Race, as a fixed label (recall octoroon and related nonsense), makes it easy to ignore change as an option.

The hysterical part arises with the implication of “replacement,” i.e., that Whites will be killed/subsumed into a non-White population. Although this definition includes genocide, let not forget that most (all?) genocides involve a majority trying to annihilate the minority, which often means Whites genociding non-Whites, e.g., English settlers and Native Americans/Aboriginals, Turks and Armenians, Nazis and Jews, etc. This fact leads me to think that Whites are projecting what they’ve done in the past to a fear of what may be done to them in the future. Either way, there’s little sign of anyone caring about “replacement” except White racists.

So with that pre-amble aside, let’s look into some data.*

First Whites and Non-whites in the US:

White and Non-white, 1930-2020 with cubic extrapolation to 2060

Disaster?! Let’s look a little deeper into White’s fall between 2010 and 2020:

Most “races” are stable, but “Multi-race” (some other race + 2 or more races) skyrockets!

So it’s more like people reclassifying themselves as less than 100% white more than “Whites” getting genocided.

What about the Hispanics? Although “Hispanic” is a vague and practically worthless descriptor, it seems like there’s a combination of self-identification and perhaps migration (kinda flat since 2005, assuming Mexico is representative) , so more like statistical displacement than physical replacement:

Data to 2020, quadratic extrapolation thereafter

Now to religion…

At first glance, Christians appear to be losing market share:

Christians are Protestant, Catholic and Evangelical. Extrapolation is quadratic

… but a closer look at the data shows that they are more likely to be replaced by indifference (“none”) than Jews, Mormons and Other (Muslims, but also Pastafarians):

With more than two out of three Americans identifying with Jesus, it’s unclear how they are a threatened minority.

As usual, let’s remember the following caveats:

  1. All humans are more complicated in their thoughts and actions than a single demographic statistic.
  2. All demagogues try to ignore this while rallying “followers” to their scams, lies and shenanigans.
  3. Some people like to belong, so they forget (1) because they want to feel like they belong somewhere.
  4. The best way to overcome tribalism and othering is to “play on the same team” with other people (per my research [pdf]), which helps them see the complex human behind the cardboard facade projected onto them.

My one-handed conclusion is that “replacement theory” is not just silly and dangerous, but a misinterpretation of data struggling to display Americans’ evolving understanding of themselves.


*I used race data from Wikipedia and religion data from Gallup. Here’s my spreadsheet, in Numbers, PDF and .csv formats. (Excel is too bloated.)

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Author: David Zetland

I'm a political-economist from California who now lives in Amsterdam.

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