This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Monday, February 26, 2018

Will Diverse Demographics Drive America's Future?

William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution (and also a long-time Research Professor at the University of Michigan) has written extensively over the past several years about the growing demographic diversity of the millennial generation (people moving into young adulthood early here in the 21st century). A few days ago he posted a nice summary of his recent research on the Brookings website. He notes first that, among millennials, 44% are minorities (i.e., something other than non-Hispanic white). Secondly, there is a distinct spatial pattern to this demographic diversity.
Millennial diversity is especially evident in the core areas of America’s largest metropolitan areas (see Figure 1).
That is, nearly three-fifths of millennials residing in core urban counties are racial minorities, where more than a quarter are Hispanic, 18 percent are black, and the rest other races. Mature, largely inner-suburb millennials are only slightly less white—52 percent—than the national millennial population. But in emerging suburbs and exurbs, whites are far more prevalent at 62 percent and 72 percent, respectively. Suburban categories get less diverse as distance from the core increases.
The spatial pattern is not just a function of distance from the city center. There is also a geographic difference around the country, in which the most prominent feature is a north-south divide--with greater diversity in the southern part of the country than in the northern part (regardless of whether you are east or west). 

These changing demographics are obviously part of the story behind the contentious politics in the U.S. The question in my mind is how long will it take for today's racial/ethnic minorities to simply be part of the mainstream? Over the past century the country has witnessed immigrant groups such as Italians move into the mainstream, and we have seen religious groups such as Catholics and Jews become part of the mainstream. Human experience with xenophobia suggests that it may take a few generations, but with luck the diversity that Dr. Frey discusses will disappear in the future as we see each other just as fellow human beings.

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