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Emerging Demographic Balkanization: Toward One America or Two?

Publication Abstract

Frey, William H. "Emerging Demographic Balkanization: Toward One America or Two?" PSC Research Report No. 97-410. November 1997.

Current debates about the future of immigrant assimilation or an emergent multiculturalism in America overlook an important new demographic divide across the nation's geography. This divide may soon supplant other well-known demographic divides across space: rural vs. urban, city vs. suburb, and the sharp racial cleavages across neighborhoods. It is separating those regions of the country which continue to serve as "immigrant gateways" from the remainder of the national territory where the new immigration makes much smaller or negligible contributions to growth. The former areas are becoming increasingly younger, multi-ethnic, and culturally diverse -- a demographic profile which shows little signs of spilling over into the whiter or white-black regions of the country with older and more middle class populations.

This paper presents evidence which demonstrates that a new kind of demographic divide is under way. It identifies key immigrant gateway regions of the country and how they are becoming distinct in terms of their race-ethnic makeup, their dual economy character, their uniquely different poverty profiles, age dependency characteristics and patterns of inter-racial marriage. The concluding section discusses what the current trends will imply if projected into the future and why the ideal of "One America," nationwide, might be difficult to maintain through the next century.

Dataset(s): 1990 US Census special migration tabulations. 1990-96 US Census Bureau Postcensal estimates. 1996 Current Population Survey.

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