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POSITIVE DEMOGRAPHIC TRENDS in the U.S.

July 9, 2012

Rather than being a victim of the old saying “cannot see the forest for the trees”, I believe I have been so focused on the FOREST, that I overlooked a very important TREE in our world.

The headline of Lee Schafer’s column in the STRIB this morning proclaimed  ”Demographic trends favor US, if we do things right”, and although  I started to read it with some doubt, I quickly realized I had over-looked a very important reality as I ponder the changing demographics  of our future.

I have been so focused on what the growth of minorities mean to MSP, and the need for an understanding of interculturalism and how do we accomplish that in businesses run by whites for whites when our customers of the future will not be whites.  We are redesigning our city and talking about gateways and trying to project into the future-all based on the white world as we know it.  I have been almost overwhelmed as I see over and over that those projections STILL assume a white population in the majority for the duration of the 21st century…and I know statistics show that is not to be…and how do we avoid falling off another cliff in our urban renewal efforts? 

Of course, I know that by the time we realize those effects to the fullest, I will not be here.  However,  the sadness of being a part of a philosophy of city planning that I studied at the University in the 60s and how wrong it was, and how it has us in a box that is hard to escape from is difficult to accept.  We THOUGHT we knew but instead, today we have empty downtowns filled with parking lots and surrounded by interstate infrastructural barriers…all waiting for us to re-do.  We cannot make a second revitalization mistake.

And then, the attitude of disbelief written on faces as I talk about mid-century projections that show the white population will be in the minority causes more worries.  Will we be able to do all this right this time?  

As I think of all that, there are days that the forest seems just too big to conquer.

So Schafer’s column and message was a welcome reminder to me that I have been over-looking a major positive.  “Of the five largest global economies today, only the U.S will see significant growth in working-age population between now and 2050.”  Yes, the WHITE population is aging and there are fewer WHITE people that will be working-age in 2050 than those elderly ….but we will be talking about less than HALF the population of our country by then!

Shafer points out this has not been a government strategy, of course, but is happening by accident .  “To the contrary, many new workers will be children of people here today whom we tried to keep out.” 

Indeed.  Somehow, a good part of our country has forgotten it is built on immigration, or prefers to think, I suppose, that there is a secret document someplace that supports only WHITE immigration.  But white immigrants are not in a majority.  We are talking Hispanics, Asians, and Africans.

All of a sudden, the discussion of Social Security being unsustainable may not be a valid concern or argument. The age distribution changes create a potential for economic growth as well as a source of funding for Social Security.  We might just be caught up once again in a 20th century worry that has changed when we were not looking.

But, as the article states, “Whether or not this potential is captured depends on the policy environment.”

So we need the attention to shift to a bigger concern in my mind, and that is indeed, the policy challenges around educational achievement and access to higher education for these immigrants.

And along with that, we need to remember we cannot build an improved white student’s educational system, we need to build a new intercultural education system .  Do we have any idea how we might do that? 

Maybe we ought to invite a few Hispanic, Asian and African education experts to the planning table because we certainly have not gotten it right with our own African American population!

 

 

 

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