Diversity boom coming to America

The baby boom after World War II affected American social life and several experts discuss the impact of the coming “diversity boom”:

“This new diversity boom that we’re seeing right now will be every bit as important for our country in the decades ahead as the baby boom [people born between 1946 and 1964] was in the last half of the 20th century,” said demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institution.

“We know that the baby boom has changed the country in lots of ways – popular culture, changing values about all kinds of social issues, families, women’s roles and politics.  And I think this diversity boom is going to have just as big of an impact.  We’ll be a very different country and we’re only just beginning to see the start of it,” said Frey…

“The degree of cultural diversity that this introduces to this country is rather like the cultural diversity we had in the 19th century, and for that matter in the 18th century at the time of founding,” observed American Enterprise Institute political scientist Charles Murray.  In many ways, according to Murray, diversity has been a positive force throughout America history…

A few decades ago, many analysts warned that these demographic trends would lead to a balkanization of America.  However, most experts now agree that U.S. culture and assimilation will reinforce America’s national character, particularly as the rate of interracial marriage grows.

Demographics or geographic mobility may seem fairly dull but sizable changes – here, an increase in immigration and the foreign-born population or a significant increase in birth rates in the postwar era – are influential. It is interesting to see the positive responses from the experts cited here as I’m less confident that such optimism would be shared by a big majority of Americans. Additionally, such booms don’t last forever (or statistically they may just cease to be booms) though it would be hard to predict when this current boom would slow.

Colleges with whiter student bodies present more diversity in their promotional materials

A sociologist talks about race and ethnicity in the promotional materials colleges offer:

Even without Photoshop, colleges try to shape the picture they present to prospective students, says Tim Pippert, a sociologist at Augsburg College in Minnesota.

“Diversity is something that’s being marketed,” Pippert says. “They’re trying to sell a campus climate, they’re trying to sell a future. Campuses are trying to say, ‘If you come here, you’ll have a good time, and you’ll fit in.’ ”

Pippert and his researchers looked at more than 10,000 images from college brochures, comparing the racial breakdown of students in the pictures to the colleges’ actual demographics. They found that, overall, the whiter the school, the more diversity depicted in the brochures, especially for certain groups.

“When we looked at African-Americans in those schools that were predominantly white, the actual percentage in those campuses was only about 5 percent of the student body,” he says. “They were photographed at 14.5 percent.”…

Rawlins says that showing inflated diversity can actually be a step toward creating a more diverse campus. It helps students imagine themselves at those schools. But balancing representation and aspiration is difficult.

It would be interesting to then take the next step and look at the effects of the differences between what is represented in the promotional materials versus what is actually happening on campus.

Does buying a vacation home in Mauritius really expose your kids to other cultures?

I just saw the end of a House Hunters International episode on HGTV and heard a justification for buying in a more tropical location that is often used on the show: it is good to expose kids to other cultures. On one hand, there may be some truth to this: the kids may indeed meet people very different from themselves as well as see other social and cultural practices. This exposure might be more significant if the family is living in the the new location full-time, as was the case in this episode as the father had a new job, versus flying to the location a few times a year for vacation.

However, there are some factors that are working against this significant exposure:

1. The family typically buys in a Western-style housing complex. This suggests they may be living more near other internationals or at least near more people with money.

2. The families typically are people of means, those who can afford to purchase a second home or have the kind of jobs that transfer them to foreign locales. This status would particularly stand out in developing countries.

3. At least on the show (which is not a good depiction of reality), the families are not typically shown doing “normal” things in the new society in which they live. No trips to the grocery store or market, hanging out in local eating establishments, or participating in social life with people who look different than themselves. Instead, we typically see shots of them on the beach or at the pool or enjoying their home.

In the end, I’m skeptical about the level of exposure to other cultures. This sounds like wealthier Westerners wanting some diversity on their terms and social standing.

Reducing time zones in Indonesia to improve business opportunities and unite ethnic groups

Indonesia is currently discussing reducing the country’s time zones from three to one:

The government has been promoting since May a plan that aims to put all parts of the sprawling archipelago nation into the same time zone as many other Asian countries. Under the plan, all of Indonesia—which stretches 6,400 kilometers between India and Australia—would be eight hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, meaning the country’s capital city would shift one hour ahead of its current time.

The government says the move is expected to boost business transactions between Indonesia and the regional financial hubs such as Singapore, China, Hong Kong and Malaysia. Airlines could also profit through simpler flight schedules, increasing their productivity, it says…

While the time-zone idea isn’t seen as critical by many investors, it is popular among some who would find it easier to do business in the country. Russia in March reduced its time zones to nine from 11, while Brazil is considering cutting to one from three.

And it isn’t only monetary gains that Jakarta has in mind by abolishing the clock divisions—it also hopes to foster closer ties among the country’s more than 1,128 ethnic groups. With the country split into three zones, the thinking goes, it’s easier for groups to view themselves as part of different regions than as Indonesians first…

The business argument makes more sense to me. (Still: in an era of fast globalization, does a one or two hour time difference really matter?) However, I’m skeptical of the ethnic/cultural argument. Being on the same time zone really brings people together in a meaningful way? Perhaps fixing the time zones is an easier “fix” than other possible measures…

I remember going through a time zone while living in northern Indiana. At the time, our part of the state was on Eastern time half of the year and on Central time the other half of the year. This was somewhat confusing but I think the bigger issue was that a good portion of the northwestern part of the state wanted to be on the same time zone as Chicago for business purposes. But, I don’t recall any debate over whether these people in a different time zone were any less Hoosiers for this choice. (However, I could imagine something similar goes on in Indiana as it does in Illinois: people near Chicago think that is where all the action is…and isn’t downstate all about corn and farming?)

Another note: the 24 time zones match up with the rotation of the earth. So what does it mean when we put multiple time zones together for political, business, and cultural purposes? Is this a prime example of humanity running roughshod over nature?

Lorton, Virginia illustrates the growing diversity across the US

The Washington Post takes a closer look at Lorton, Virginia, recently named as one of the most diverse communities in the United States, and discusses how Lorton illustrates broader trends:

Non-whites no longer stick out in a crowd. Lorton is one of the most diverse places in the entire country, according to a new study of census data by two sociologists from Pennsylvania State University. The 19,000 residents are roughly a third white and a third black, and there are significant numbers of Asians, Hispanics and multiracial residents…

What’s happened in Lorton is typical of a demographic sea change that is transforming the Washington area and much of the country. Non-Hispanic whites are a minority in a growing number of metropolitan areas, including Washington. Predominantly white neighborhoods are a relic of the past. New developments that appeal to young families are among the most diverse, drawing Hispanics and Asians who, on average, are much younger than the whites.

Although metropolitan areas are the most diverse, small towns and the countryside are also attracting more minorities. The Penn State researchers found that whites are the predominant group in barely one-third of all places of 1,000 residents or more, compared with two-thirds in 1980.

“Racial and ethnic diversity is no longer a vicarious experience for Americans,” said Barrett A. Lee, one of the study’s authors. “It used to be something that was recognized and debated at the national level. But now even residents of small towns and rural areas are coming face to face with people of different races or ethnicity in their daily lives, not just on the evening news.”

This is part of everyday life in many communities across the United States.

Myron Orfield on how to help keep the suburbs, like those of Chicago, diverse

Myron Orfield is known for his efforts to argue for more comprehensive metropolitan cooperation and planning. In this piece at Atlantic Cities, Orfield explains how to help the suburbs remain diverse:

Yet, while integrated suburbs represent great hope, they face serious challenges to their prosperity and stability. In America, integrated communities have a hard time staying integrated for extended periods. Neighborhoods that were more than 23 percent non-white in 1980 were more likely to become predominately non-white (more than 60 percent non-white) during the next 25 years than to remain integrated. Illegal discrimination — in the form of steering by real estate agents, mortgage lending and insurance discrimination, subsidized housing placement, and racial gerrymandering of school attendance boundaries — is causing rapid racial change and economic decline…

By 2010, 17 percent of suburbanites lived in predominantly non-white suburbs, communities that were once integrated but are now more troubled than their central cities, with fewer prospects for renewal. Tipping or resegregation (moving from a once all-white or stably integrated neighborhood to an all non-white neighborhood), while common, is not inevitable. Stable integration is possible. However, it does not happen by accident. It is the product of clear race-conscious strategies, hard work, and political collaboration among local governments.

Critical to stabilizing these suburbs are the following strategies:

  • Creation of local stable integration plans with fair housing ordinances, incentives for pro-integrative home loans, cooperative efforts with local school districts, and financial support of pro-integrative community-based organizations.
  • Greater enforcement of existing civil rights laws including the Fair Housing Act, especially the sections related to racial steering, mortgage lending discrimination and location of publicly subsidized affordable housing.
  • Adoption of regional strategies to limit exclusionary zoning and require affluent suburbs to accommodate their fair share of affordable housing.
  • Adoption of metropolitan-scale strategies to promote more integrated schools.

This tipping point phenomenon goes back to the research of Thomas Schelling who identified points where residents will start leaving a neighborhood with an influx of certain new residents. Research suggests that whites start leaving more diverse neighborhoods when the neighborhood becomes roughly 10-20% non-white.

It’s too bad Orfield doesn’t go further with this and talk about suburbs where this has successfully taken place. In his book American Metropolitics, Orfield talks primarily about inner-ring suburbs that now have more diverse populations. The Chicago metropolitan region maps included in this post are fascinating: between 2000 and 2010, a number of suburbs became more diverse. I’ve included the 2010 map from the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity below:

Some quick observations:

1. The diverse suburbs have moved far beyond just the inner-ring suburbs.

2. The south and west suburbs are most diverse. There are a number of African-American suburbs just south of Chicago and the diverse population west of Chicago is primarily Latino with growing numbers of Asians.

3. The wealthier North Shore suburbs are the largest pocket of predominantly white suburbs though there are a number of these white suburbs sprinkled throughout the region. It is interesting to watch how these suburbs adapt to the growing diversity around them.

4. The most diverse suburbs appear to be ones with cheaper housing and more manufacturing and service jobs. There are some wealthier more diverse suburbs such as Oak Brook but I suspect the diversity in these suburbs is not also class diversity.

So Orfield’s four recommendations would help preserve this map and even increase diversity? Without much metropolitan cooperation, the Chicago suburbs have become more diverse. Perhaps Orfield might argue the suburbs would be even more diverse if metropolitan efforts had been undertaken. However, these maps obscure several important features such as social class and availability of nearby jobs.

Religious change in America between 2000 and 2010

Results from the 2010 U.S. Religion Census show religious changes in America between 2000 and 2010:

The 2010 U.S. Religion Census, released May 1 on the Association of Religion Data Archives, found that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gained the most regular members in the last 10 years, growing by nearly 2 million to a total of 6.14 million adherents in 13,600 congregations…

  • Taken together, nondenominational and independent churches may now be considered the third largest religious group in the country, with 12.2 million adherents in 35,500 congregations. Only the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention are larger.
  • The U.S. was home to 2,106 mosques nationwide in 2010. The figure includes 166 mosques in Texas, 118 in Florida and 50 Muslim houses of worship in North Carolina…

Mainline Protestant churches lost an average of 12.8 percent of adherents in the first decade of the 21st century; 5 percent fewer active members were found in Catholic churches.

There is an explanation for this growing diversity toward the end of the article: the religious economy approach. This school of thought in the sociology of religion suggests that religious groups in the United States have to compete for adherents, sharpening the appeal and “marketing” of some of these groups. This takes place because of the separation of church of state which is a contrast to state churches in Europe that tend to stifle religious competition.

Some of these changes are also interesting at the local level. For example, Muslims are the fastest growing religious group in Illinois and there are now more Muslims in the Chicago area than Methodists. [The actual numbers for this second fact are not in this online story but were in the print version of the newspaper.]