Minorities outnumber non-Hispanic whites in nearly a quarter of America's largest urban areas, a demographic development that is likely to expand as booming minority populations outpace the country's static white populations.

Non-Hispanic whites are now minority in 22 of the country's 100-biggest urban areas, including those surrounding Washington, New York, San Diego, Las Vegas and Memphis. The reversal is being fueled by a growth in Hispanic and Asian populations -- they grew by 41 and 43 percent, respectively -- and the fact that white populations have grown by less than one percent.

What's happened is pivotal, said William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution who found the data in an analysis of the 2010 Census. Large metropolitan areas will be the laboratories for change. The measures they take to help minorities assimilate and become part of the labor force will be studied by other parts of the country that are whiter and have­n't been touched as much by the change.

The finding also underscores the generational gap between the country's white and minority populations. A previous study of the census data found that for the first time a majority of babies born in the United States were non-white, and that a majority of elderly Americans were white.

Education Deemed Critical For Assimilation

At the time, Frey warned that our future labor force is absolutely dependent on our ability to integrate and educate a new diverse child population, and he wrote in the newer analysis that the country's aging population could be resistant to an increasingly young and diverse population laying claim to government services.

These changes, coming so quickly and evolving from the 'bottom up' of our age structure, may exacerbate existing cultural generation gaps, as older, largely white generations may be slow to recognize the promise of this change, Frey wrote.

The trend also promises to reshape the electoral landscape, as traditionally Republican enclaves become more diverse and could as a result drift left. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., told The Washington Post that a steady increase in suburban Virginia's minority population has already resulted in more Democrats getting elected.

You're going to start seeing that demographic impact politically in the outer suburbs, Connolly predicted.