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Lois Verbrugge, Disability Experience & Measurement

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Are Two Americas Emerging?

Publication Abstract

Frey, William H. 1991. "Are Two Americas Emerging?" Population Today, 19(10): 6-8.

For much of the nation's history, national demographic trends were largely a result of trends in the white population. This is no longer the case. The 1990 Census confirmed that the U.S. is now one-fourth "minority" and that the non-Hispanic white population no longer unerringly reflects the nation's character. But there are two sides to this story: while changes in national-level trends increasingly reflect the statistical weight of minorities, there is a continuing geographic polarization between racial and ethnic minorities and the white "majority" population.

This article uses data from the 1980 and 1990 U.S. Censuses to examine a decade of change in the distribution of minorities and non-Hispanic whites. These data show that the distribution of U.S. whites across geographic regions and metro areas is becoming increasingly dissimilar to that of faster-growing minorities.

If current trends continue or intensify, we will see increasing disparity in distribution patterns between minority and white populations. Regional differences in age composition and income levels will sharpen.

At the extreme, two American residential norms will emerge, both viable, but quite different in culture and style: the first, aging, largely white nonmetropolitan and small metropolitan communities in the Midwest; the second, young, vibrant, multicultural metro areas in the South and West. Such divisions exist only in embryo at this point. But even today's patterns have implications for regional political preferences, social services needed, and attitudes about major social issues, ranging from multilingual education to federal assistance to homeless and poverty populations.

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