America today is experiencing the most kaleidoscopic demographic change since the Melting Pot era more than a century ago. After an historic wave of immigration that began in 1965, minorities now comprise nearly 40 percent of the overall population and almost half of the under-18 population. Recently, the federal government projected that students of color will represent a majority of all public school K-12 students nationwide beginning this September.
Diversity is simultaneously deepening in cities where it is already well-established—from New York City to Miami, and Houston to Los Angeles—and bringing the great wave of immigration into places that have not historically felt those currents. From 2000 to 2010, the Census Bureau reports, Hispanics provided a majority of the population growth in 18 states. Though smaller overall, the Asian population shows similar trends: it is burgeoning not only in familiar Southern California, but also in the communities around Indianapolis, Columbus (OH), Des Moines, and Minneapolis. In many places, these “new” minorities are joining established African-American communities to create an increasingly complex but also rich mosaic.
Both the deepening of diversity in places where it is established, and its arrival in places where it is not, is creating opportunities and challenges as communities grapple with changes that immigrants and other new arrivals bring to neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools. Few dynamics will shape American life more in the years ahead than how our communities adapt to this transformation.
In the coming months, the Next America project will bring these historic changes to life through a unique series of grassroots reports exploring how communities around the U.S. are responding to growing diversity and changing demographics. We call this report Population 2043. That refers to the year the Census Bureau projects that the groups now considered racial and ethnic minorities will constitute a majority of the American population. But as these reports will make clear, when it comes to forging a new, diverse American identity in our communities large and small, the future is now. —Ronald Brownstein, editorial director, Atlantic Media