New PRB report in US Population
[H-Demog ed note: This is a report on the contemporary issues surrounding the
US population and is crossposted from H-Ethnic.]
[H-Ethnic Co-editor's note: Thanks to Mary Kent of the Population
Reference Bureau for sending along this press release on the
Bureau's newly released publication, "The United States at
Mid-Decade," which was cited in the Washington Post, New York
Times, and numerous other newspapers yesterday. JB]
New Report Examines Demographic Trends Shaping Voters' Concerns
Crafting a campaign message that appeals to the American public
will be a formidable challenge in 1996. A new report, The United
States at Mid-Decade, examines how demographic factors are
segmenting voters and shaping their concerns. The report,
released March 6 at the National Press Club, Washington, DC, was
written by Carol J. De Vita, senior research demographer at the
Population Reference Bureau, a private, nonprofit, nonadvocacy
research group in Washington, DC. The report highlights four
major issue areas:
- More stability in family patterns: One in three households in
1995 had a child under age 18, about the same as in 1990. Divorce
rates appear to be stabilizing. Out-of- wedlock birth rates are
increasing more slowly.
- Two-parent, married couple families on the increase: Between
1990 and 1995, the number of two-parent households with children
increased by over 700,000, reversing a 20-year pattern of
- A baby boomlet for a middle-age population: Immigration and
the large number of baby boom women still in their childbearing
years produced a mini baby boom during the late 1980s and early
1990s. By 1994, there were 68 million children in the population,
almost as many as at the height of the famed baby boom era.
Median age for the nation crept to 34 years in 1994, up from 30
years in 1980.
- Growing elderly population: Every state witnessed an increase
in the size of its older population (age 65+) during the first
half of the 1990s. The elderly represent about 13 percent of the
U.S. population, but this share ranges widely from 18 percent in
Florida to 5 percent in Alaska.
- Income lagging: The United States was pulling out of an
economic recession that hit the country at the beginning of the
decade (1990 to1991), but median household income by mid-decade
(1994) lagged about 6 percent below its 1989 prerecession peak.
The Northeast experienced the biggest decline (11 percent); the
South saw the smallest drop (3 percent).
- Poverty declining: Poverty rates, which rose during the early
1990s, have since shown signs of improvement. Between 1993 and
1994, there was a drop in both the rate of poverty and number of
people in poverty. Poverty rates for children are almost twice as
high as for adults.
- Gap between rich and poor widening: In 1994, the top 5 percent
of households pulled in $110,000 or more annually, more than
eight times the income of the bottom 20 percent of households
($13,000 or less). Twenty years earlier, there was only a sixfold
difference between these two income groups. This trend has left
many Americans feeling insecure about the future.
- Growth in the West: The most rapid population growth in the
1990s occurred in the West, especially in the mountain states of
Nevada, Idaho, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico. Combined,
these six states added almost 1.9 million people to the region's
population in just five years. Of the 10 fastest growing states,
only 1 (Georgia) was in the eastern half of the country.
- Declines in the Northeast: Without immigration from abroad,
two states in the Northeast (Massachusetts and New York) would
have lost population between 1990 and 1995.
- A nation of suburbanites: Over three-quarters of the U.S.
population lived in metropolitan areas at mid-decade, but most of
these urbanites (about 60 percent) lived in the suburbs and
exurbs. Metro areas in the South and West have seen the largest
increases in minorities living in the suburbs, especially
Atlanta, GA (for blacks); Laredo, TX (for Hispanics); and San
Jose, CA (for Asians).
Minorities and Immigrants
- Growing racial and ethnic diversity: During the first half of
the 1990s, the minority population grew by 15 percent, compared
with 3 percent growth in the non- Hispanic white population. The
Asian population grew fastest (by 31 percent), followed by
Hispanics (20 percent), and African Americans (8 percent). Within
the next 15 years, Hispanics are projected to outnumber blacks.
- Minority population concentrated in particular states and
regions: Over half of all African Americans live in the South.
Over half of all Asian Americans live in the West.
Over half of all Hispanics live in two states (California and
- Numbers of legal immigrants dropping, but still concentrated
in urban areas: In 1994, about 800,000 persons were legally
admitted to the United States, down from about 900,000 earlier in
the decade. Over 90 percent of these new immigrants headed toward
urban centers. Los Angeles and New York were the leading magnets.
- Minority voting behavior: Nationally, the growing numbers of
minorities do not automatically translate into political
strength. Many new immigrants are not yet citizens and therefore
are not eligible to vote. Minorities also tend to have lower
voter registration and voter turnout rates than non-Hispanic
whites. Among eligible voters (citizens age 18 or older), only 57
percent of blacks and 48 percent of Hispanics voted in the 1992
presidential election, compared with 67 percent of whites.
Copies of The United States at Mid-Decade may be purchased for
$8.50 (price includes postage) through PRB's home page:
www.prb.org/prb/ Or call 1-800-877-9881 or 202-483-1100.
Journalists may request a free copy.
The Population Reference Bureau (PRB) is a private, nonprofit,
nonadvocacy organization. Founded in 1929, PRB is a leader in
providing timely, objective information on U.S. and international
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