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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Analysis of the Changing Characteristics in the U.S. Population

William H. Frey, demographer and senior fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program, Brookings Institution
Washington, DC
April 5, 2011

Date: 04/05/2011 Location: Washington, DC Description: William Frey, demographer and senior fellow, Brookings Institution, briefs at the Washington Foreign Press Center on ''The Changing Characteristics in the U.S. Population.'' - State Dept Image

 3:15 P.M. EDT

MR. FREY: Well, thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be here. I know that you’ve been sitting through lots of demographics all afternoon and you’re going to be sitting through some more – and I think you deserve a lot of credit for that; you have a lot of interest in it.

They’ve always said that people who are demographers are really people who aspire to be accountants, but they lack the personality. So these are the kind of people who maybe are not the most stimulating to listen to, but I hope I can give you just a little bit of a flavor for what we’ve done in the U.S. – what the U.S. Census has shown us, that you heard a lot of the details and the statistics from the Census people in the last hour and maybe sort of pull out a little bit what it means.

I’ve looked at the Census very carefully for the last two months, that they’ve been rolling out state by state. I don't know if you’ve been following this, but it started with, I think, Virginia and New Jersey and ended up with New York and Washington, D.C. from February all the way till the end of March. So when all the states were brought out – we now can get a national picture – our first picture of what’s happened, really, over that 10-year period between 2000 and 2010, an absolute count of the population, the count by race/ethnicity, whether people are children, whether they’re – people are adults, and really get a real sense of what’s going on, at the fine-grain level of what’s going on in the United States demographically. It’s a very important occasion for demographers to have the Census.

Now looking at the results, I see kinds of – two major thrusts of this last decade that are kind of important. One of them is that this decade is kind of a transition from 20th century America to a more globalized country. And it’s a slower-growing country, just this last decade. We don’t know how much slow – more slowly the growth will be. And also, it’s something that I called a pivot decade – pivot meaning we’re going to pivot to an area – a kind of country that had a certain race and ethnic makeup, where we sort of understood where people lived in different parts of the country and there was kind of stereotypes – if you’re black, you live here; if you’re Hispanic, you live there, and so forth. And things have been changing a lot.

So I’m going to talk about those two things, the kind of slow growth this decade just for a little bit, and then I’m going to talk about the aspects of this pivot that I’m talking about. Because I think the pivot has really important implications for social change in America, for economic change in America, for political change in America, and maybe how we’re viewed around the world a little bit differently. I think one good symbol of all this is Barack Obama, our President, who has a very different, I think, image around the country than maybe some of our earlier presidents just because of his background. He’s kind of an example of the way we’re changing right now.

But I wanted to talk first about kind of the slowness of the population growth in the first decade. It’s the slowest rate of growth that we’ve had since the Great Depression, about 9.7 percent growth. It was a little bit less than the growth that we showed in the 1980s when the baby boom stopped booming and the bust came along and we didn’t grow very fast then. And of course, the Great Depression, the economy wasn’t very good. But this growth has a lot to do with, one, the aging of the population, and also kind of a turndown of the immigration. If you’re familiar with our population dynamics in this country, you know that for the last 25 years or so, we’ve had a pretty good clip of immigration coming to the United States, about a million people a year, largely from Latin America and Asia.

But in this decade, this last decade, two things kept that population growth down a little bit. One of them was the 9/11 attack where people – there was more – a few more restrictions on immigration and people maybe were a little bit more cautious about moving to the United States. And then the last two or three years of the decade was the recession. There were fewer jobs here and so there was a turndown then. So that had something to do with the lower population growth; as they say, about 9.7 percent compared to 13 percent during the 1990s. Still, 9.7 percent is pretty good. Maybe from some of the countries you come from, you would wish that you were growing at 9.7 percent. A lot of European countries are growing at much lower rates. Japan is growing at a much lower rate. So in terms of growth, it’s a relative thing, but compared to our history, it’s not as fast as it was before.

The final number was 38.7 million people in the United States. The Census Bureau made projections a few years ago that we would hit 400 million by the year 2039. We reached 300 million in 2006. But I think that if we keep up this kind of slower growth, we won’t hit 400 million by 2039. It’ll be a few years after that. But I’m optimistic that we’ll start growing a little more rapidly again. I think immigration will pick up once the economy picks up, and I think with that, we’re going to have a lower population. It’s still aging. There’s parts of the population that’s younger and has higher fertility and that may pick up as well.

So that’s part of the slow growth decade, and also in this slow growth decade, there was a decline in migration within the United States – people who moved from house to house, from city to city, from region to region. All of that got shut down in the last two or three years. We’ve had the lowest migration rate within the United States since the end of World War II. And what that meant is the faster growing states in the country didn’t grow nearly as rapidly in the last few years as they did in the earlier part of the decade.

Now the reason they take the Census – the official reason they take the Census is to reapportion Congress in the U.S. I’m sure the Census people told you about this. And what we might have expected at the middle part of this decade didn’t show up at the end of the decade in terms of which states got the most reapportionment. For example, Florida and Arizona grew very rapidly in the first part of the decade but slowed down because of the housing crunch and the recession. Now Arizona has still got one extra seat in the Congress, an additional seat because of reapportionment, and Florida got two additional seats. But Florida probably would have gotten three and Arizona probably would have gotten two were it for the reapportionment situation that could have happened if that fast growth toward the middle of the decade continued to the end of the decade.

The big winner in terms of reapportion was Texas. Texas gained four congressional seats, was the big bonanza for Texas, and it gained some seats that other states might have taken if their economy was a little better. Of course, the states in the Northeast and the Midwest, many of them lost seats. New York lost two seats. And of course, Michigan lost actual population this decade. It was the only state that lost population in this decade.

So we still have this movement from the Northeast to the Midwest, to the South and West. The congressional representation follows that. But there’s been a little bit of a shift toward the end of this decade which means that as we move ahead in the next eight, if the economy picks up, we might expect Florida to do a lot better than it did in this last decade. We might expect Arizona and Nevada to do a lot better than it did in the last decade.

One thing we also found in this decade is California only grew at about the same rate the nation has grown. A lot of people – think back maybe 20 or 30 years ago, when you were moving to places that were the great nirvana in the United States, where are you going to go to find a job where everything is really good. They used to think of California as one of those states – California, maybe Texas, maybe Florida. But California had a relatively slow growth this last decade, and part of that slow growth had to do with the fact that it was very expensive to live there in the middle of the decade. Housing prices went way up. People started moving westward into Las Vegas, Nevada and Arizona, to the western part of the country that was not on the coasts. And as a result, California, for the first time in its history, did not gain an additional congressional seat. It’s been gaining and gaining, Census after Census after Census, and it didn’t gain a congressional seat. Instead, states surrounding California gained, reflecting all the migration that went out to those areas. So this was a decade of slow growth and sort of changing redistribution within the United States a little bit, but still going from the – what we call the Snowbelt, the Northeast and the Midwest, to the Sunbelt, which is the South and the West regions.

Now I want to talk about what I’ve talked about, this pivot decade that has a lot to do with race and ethnicity. And as I said to begin with, people have in the past thought of the race/ethnic structure in the United States in very stereotypic ways. You used to think of us as a country that was largely white with the major minority group being blacks or African Americans. And the African Americans used to live in cities or in large parts of the south, and that was kind of the image. After the 2000 Census was taken, we found all of a sudden, “Gee, there are Hispanics here in the United States.” I mean, a lot of people knew this ahead of time, but after they saw the Census results, what happened was they found that Hispanics actually were a bigger part of the population than blacks. It was kind of – just came out of nowhere for a lot of people. And so we sort of take that for granted.

But now that we take the end of the 2010 Census, what we’re finding is that Hispanic growth and also the Asian population growth, both at about 43 percent this last decade, is especially important because the white growth has just slowed down dramatically. I think what’s important about this decade is to understand that this country’s growth in the future will depend very much on what I call immigrant minorities or new minorities – Hispanics and Asians – and not just immigrants themselves, but the second generation and the third generation. But these are all groups that have relatively recently immigrated to the United States in large numbers, and that’s what’s really going to be fueling our growth over the next decade, two decades, three decades. And this white population, which is growing at a little bit more than 1 percent compared to the 43 percent of Hispanics and Asians, is going to be taking a much smaller role in what’s going on. In fact, whites only accounted for not even 9 percent of the nation’s growth this last decade compared to 20 percent in the ‘90s and much higher percentages back in the 1980s and earlier. So it really is – our growth is coming from other places but whites.

It’s also the case that in about 18 states, the Hispanic population accounted for half or more of the growth in the United States. And in 33 of the 50 states, the new minorities – Hispanics, Asians, multiracials, some other race, Hawaiian and Native Islanders – I’m sure the Census people took you through all these different categories – all of those groups accounted for most of the growth in 33 states in the United States. And these are not just the big booming states of the Sunbelt like Texas, but it also includes slow growing states like Ohio and Michigan and – Michigan didn’t grow, but it would have had a bigger loss were it not be for these new groups – Pennsylvania, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, slow growing states that were it not for these new minorities would really, really have slow growth, and in some places, even population decline. So it’s a very important ingredient economically, culturally to try to draw these folks in – the new immigrant minorities, the new minorities – to these states if they’re going to continue to be viable compared to the states that have been growing much more rapidly over the years.

There’s now about 65 percent of the population which are white compared to 69 percent in the 2000 Census. There are four states that are majority minority states; that means where the whites are less than 50 percent. And there’s now another in addition, eight more states where minorities make up at least 40 percent of the population. Some of them are in play states like California and New Mexico, and others are states where African Americans have traditionally been a big minority part of the population but they’ve been added to by Hispanics, making states like Mississippi and Maryland and other states in the South that have combined Hispanic and black minorities – have put them over the top, at least 40 percent minority.

But the most important change having to do with this pivot decade is not just the relative growth of Hispanics versus whites, but where this growth is occurring most and where the disparity is occurring most. And this is in the child population, the people under 18 years of age. In this last decade, this country actually showed a decline of whites between 2000 and 2010 who are under 18 years of age. This is kind of a phenomenal pattern. Now, it’s happened in the past in some decades when the economy was very bad and the child population didn’t grow very much because fertility was down.

But this is due to different kinds of causes. It has to do, again, with the aging of the white population. A lot of women are past their childbearing years in this country, and of those who are, the fertility rate is relatively low. The natural – the total fertility rate in the United States is about at replacement, 2.1, but the white fertility rate is below replacement. It’s about 1.9. You have to be 2.1 to replace the population. It means the kind of average number of children a woman has over the course of her life course, and if a woman has 2.1 children, that takes – that replaces her and her husband and then takes into account some child mortality. But the white population is below replacement, where the Hispanic population is up near 3.0, as Asians are a little lower, but it’s the new immigrant minorities that have higher fertility in addition to having a younger age structure. So although the country lost about 4 million whites under 18, it gained about 5 million Hispanics and Asians over the same period.

So this really is a turnover in terms of the population shifts for these areas. I mean, the aging part of it is – the mean age, the median age of the white population in the United States is 41. For the Hispanic population, it’s only 27. And for the multiracial population, it’s 20. Half the multiracial population is under 20 and the other half of the population is – multiracial population is over 20.

So we have this kind of aging going on, and it’s – what it does is it brings the population down to, again, nationally – a national loss of the child white population, but in 46 states, there’s a loss in the child white population. This is so pervasive that, in fact, in 23 states, there’s an overall loss in the child population because the whites are bigger – in big enough parts of those states. These tend to be states in New England and the Great Plains and the Midwest and places like that. But it’s kind of remarkable that this decade, the low fertility and the aging structure – the aging white population is bringing about a decline of child populations in a large part of the country and it’s the Hispanics that are helping to bring this along. And among the child population, only about 54 percent of that child population is white, down from about 61 percent at the previous Census.

Another thing that’s kind of emerging as a result of all this is something I’ve called a cultural generation gap. Now the cultural generation gap is the idea – is that these younger people in the country are becoming much more diverse. Not only do they have iPhones and BlackBerrys and all these things that most old folks like me don’t really understand, but they’re also culturally different in the sense that they do have this very broad race and ethnic background shift that’s different, especially from the older adults in this country but even from younger adults in this country.

So according to the Census 2010 numbers, about 54 percent of the under-18 population is white, but 67 percent, about two thirds of the over-18 population is white. So you can see this kind of shift going on in terms of perhaps competition for resources that affect children and the older adults, because this racial generation gap or cultural generation gap pits people who are sort of older and don’t have their own children and their own grandchildren who are part of this new mix in the United States. They’re less connected, and as a result, we see lots of divisions occurring. A lot of it has to do with the immigration debate in different parts of the country. Arizona has one of the biggest race generation gaps in terms of the demography of the children versus the race/ethnic structure of the adult population of any state in the country, and that’s played out a lot in some of the kinds of issues that have come up there, including the immigration legislation. So that’s something to – although it’s good news that we have all these new minorities coming in to fill in for the aging white population, it also brings about challenges for some of these things like the cultural generation gap.

Now, there’s one other racial shift that’s gone on in the United States as a result of the Census. That involves the black population, the African American population. For many decades, in the earlier part of the 20th century, blacks left the South. I mean, we have a sad history in our country of long discrimination against African Americans, who – many of whom were essentially slaves in the United States for many – years and years ago. When they were freed and when they still resided in the South, long periods of discrimination were prevalent and poor economic conditions.

So for the first several decades, really for a good part of maybe five or six decades in the 20th century, there was huge migration – called the great migration of African Americans from southern states to largely big cities, where jobs were available in industry that was being created – Chicago, New York, Detroit, Cleveland, places like that. And all along – around the ‘70s and ‘80s, there was a little bit of a trickle back because during this period in the United States, there were – there was a huge growth in the Sunbelt, in say, Florida, Texas, California, and places like that. But mostly, it was whites who moved there. Blacks were a little reluctant to go back to the South during those years.

But in the ‘80s and in the ‘90s and especially in this decade, there’s great evidence of black moving back to the South, and especially the parts of the South that are the most economically vibrant – Georgia, Florida, Texas, North Carolina are states that are attracting lots of African Americans. And for the very first time in their history, Michigan and Illinois showed an absolute decline in their black population. These were major states that were getting blacks form the South during those years of the great migration – now show absolute declines of blacks. New York showed an absolute decline of blacks, California showed an absolute decline of blacks as bigger gains continued to flow into these southern states.

In addition, the other stereotype people had about the black population for many years was the fact that they tended to reside only in segregated city neighborhoods away from the suburbs and away from white communities, whether they be in the city or the suburbs. And in this decade, with these new Census results, we find for the first time a very pervasive loss of African Americans from cities all over the country. In other words, they’re moving from the cities to the suburbs or for – the cities to other parts of the country – Chicago, Detroit, New York, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta. All of those cities lost African Americans. In fact, of the 30 cities that have the biggest concentrations of African Americans in the United States, 19 of them showed declines in their black populations as they moved off to the suburbs.

It’s also fairly pervasive that the segregated housing that blacks lived in in the United States has gone down and declined between 2000 and 2010. Ninety-two of the hundred largest metropolitan areas showed declines in segregation, which is a measure you can measure lots of ways, but one of them is just how clustered are blacks living with other blacks. And by that kind of measure, you see that there’s a decline in segregation. Now sometimes, the declines are not very big, but they have been very pervasive. And it’s typically the case that in the South, the segregation levels are lower than they are in the North, so the combination of blacks moving from the North to the South and then from the city to the suburbs brings an overall level of integration, or lowers the level of segregation beyond that we’ve seen.

And the blacks that have been involved in this movement tend to be new generations of African Americans. In the mid-1960s, we had the Civil Rights Movement which gave African Americans, presumably, rights to get into college, to buy and rent homes where they were discriminated against. It’s taken several decades for that to have a full force in our society, but the new generations of African Americans are now, many of them, well into the middle class, well into professional occupations, and they’re able to have much more freedom in terms of where they move and the kinds of jobs they can take. And that’s part of this result, the kind of new, younger generations of blacks – want to live in the suburbs, want to live in the South, and in sort of economically vibrant parts of the South. And that’s really what’s been going on.

And that’s, I think, a very big picture. If we think about the race/ethnic structure of the United States, not just the rise of Hispanics and the rise of the Asians and the shrinking white population – the shrinking and aging white population – it’s not shrinking, but slow growing and aging white population – but this kind of new way that African Americans are able to move around the country and sort of make it into the middle class in a bigger number and make it into middle class kinds of residences.

So that’s part of that. I wanted to say just a little bit about politics, because I know people might have some interest in that, and that if we think about the presidential politics, we look back at 2008 and saw that some of the states that Barack Obama took were states that you wouldn’t normally think a Democrat would take, states that were largely white. Whites tend to vote Republican to a larger extent than they vote Democrat, and the minorities, especially African Americans but also Hispanics, tend to be voting more Democrat. Well, the state of North Carolina is an example of a state that typically would have thought to be voted Republican, but because of the big flow of blacks back into the South and the increased attraction for Hispanics and the big turnout of blacks and Hispanics in North Carolina, Barack Obama – I think it has a lot to do with explaining why he took North Carolina, a lot to do with explaining how he took Virginia, a lot to do with explaining how he took Nevada. Nevada doesn’t have a big black population, but it has an increased Hispanic population because of this sort of movement of Hispanics around the country.

And I think that we’ll see that – obviously, politics depends on issues and depends on how people feel about the President, whether – it’s not just whether he’s a Republican or a Democrat. But the demography and the changing race and ethnic structure of states that we have thought of as kind of purple states – the red states tend to be Republican states, the blue states tend to be Democrat states – but the purple states are the ones that are kind of in play. And purple states in the past have been states like Nevada and now North Carolina and Virginia and Florida, and some of the recent observations from the Census tend to think that maybe Georgia could be a purple state. For a long time, it’s been a red state, it’s been a Republican state. Or that Arizona could be a purple state; for a long time, it’s been a red state. Due to these changing demographics, not only today’s demographics, but because the youth population in these states are even more racially and ethnically diverse than the adults, if you fast-forward ahead in the cycles of four, eight, 12 years, future presidential elections, that would be a very different playing field. And whoever runs for office needs to take into account the issues that are important for these new immigration minorities. That’s going to be much different than it was in the past.

So I’m just going to wrap up and take some questions, but I wanted to say that what we’ve tried to do is show how we’ve changed in this country. It’s a slow growth, but what’s – what we’re doing is kind of becoming more diverse from the bottom up. That is, it’s the youth part of the population that is becoming more diverse. It’s bringing along opportunities for infusing our labor force with a lot of new talent. It’s a lot of political shifts that may work to the advantage of parties and candidates that didn’t have those before. But it also brings challenges as well, something like the cultural generation gap that maybe emerge, and also, quite frankly, for many Hispanics in this country, their level of education of their parents is not very high as new immigrants or second-generation immigrants. It means we need to do an awful lot with our education system and make sure these large numbers of new immigrant minorities are able to make it into the middle class, have that kind of education that will put them there. And I think if all of that happens, we’re going to be in pretty good stead.

And so I’m going to stop and take some questions.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Mr. Frey. Before we start, just a reminder to wait for the microphone and please state your name and your media organization. And we will – let’s start in the front right here.

QUESTION: John Zang with CTI TV of Taiwan. I have two questions, actually. What is the significance of the fast growth of Asian population in general, and Chinese population in particular, with regards to the U.S. relations with Asia, with China?

My second question: Given the trends that we have seen, are we going to see more Democratic presidents than Republican presidents in the next 20 or 30 years? Thank you.

MR. FREY: Well, on the first one, I’m not a foreign policy expert, so I’m not sure I can give you a nuanced answer to that particular question, but certainly, as we have more people coming here from China and Taiwan to the United States, obviously, with the interconnectedness of this world, the interconnectedness of business that goes on – just personally, my cousin travels a lot to China to do business and that – he would – 10 years ago, I would have never thought that would have happened. And that’s much more pervasive around the country.

So I think from that perspective and the perspective that it – if you look at the educational attainment, the kinds of jobs that a lot of people from China and other Asian countries have in this country, they’re very highly skilled, many of them. It’s an important part of our labor force, something we really need to cultivate. So I mean, I just think we’re – it’s helping us to have immigrants, long or permanent residents whose birthplace was in these – it helps us to communicate better, and so from that perspective, I think it’s important, and certainly our foreign policy people need to – certainly have to pay attention to China and other big countries in Asia. There’s no question about it.

As to the impact on the future politics, whatever candidate winds up winning has to take account of the views of this growing Hispanic population and perhaps maybe a coalition of different minority groups depending on how their interests converge. I think there’s no question about that. And because if you only play into the sort of white baby boomer mentality in this country, it’ll get you somewhere in the short term and it’ll get you somewhere – I’m sure the Census Bureau folks showed you the parts of the country that are still pretty white. It’ll get you somewhere in those places, but that’s a short-term thing.

And the history – a good place to look at the history is the state of California where they had a Republican governor named Pete Wilson back in the early 1990s. And he tried to get some Republican support by putting very punitive immigration measures into play back then, and the result was a couple of election cycles later, there weren’t – with the exception of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who’s sort of an iffy – sort of a Republican but not really a Republican in some people’s eyes – the Democrats took over the state of California because of that.

But I think both Republicans and Democrats understand the demography of this. I think it’s only candidates who have a sort of short-term mindset or kind of disregard and try to play this sort of older white views of – who may be more interested in Social Security and Medicaid and these kinds of issues compared to the issues like immigration reform, like educational housing affordability, educational resources in the community and so forth. Very soon, people are going to understand, you’re going to have to deal with all these different groups if you’re going to be elected. So I don’t think it’s a particular Republican or Democrat. It may initially be a Democratic advantage.

MODERATOR: Okay. Let’s go all the way in the back to the young lady in the black.

QUESTION: Thank you. I’m Kanya D' Almeida from the Interpress Service. You talked a bit about this thing that you called the cultural generation gap. You mentioned iPhones and BlackBerrys and talked a little bit about some of the disadvantages. I assumed you meant about this cultural generation gap. And I’m wondering if you can expand on that a little bit and talk about what exactly you meant was a disadvantage by that.

MR. FREY: Well, I think the disadvantage is in the fact that there is a gap that emerges between the younger part of the population, which is culturally more detached from the older population than would have been the case 30 or 40 years ago when the younger population was not nearly as racially and ethnically diverse.

In other words, back then, the children who were aged in their teens and so forth, their parents and grandparents had lived in the United States for a long time. So even though they may be concerned about some of the things their young people have been doing and some of their attitudes about what was going on – and we saw a lot of this back in the ‘60s, by the way. There have – there was generation gaps going on even though the cultural difference weren’t that bad, because the young people were very liberal and wanted to upset all the norms of society and the older population was not too concerned about that.

But I think with the add – you add the added ingredient of race/ethnicity, people coming from different parts of the world and their younger parents, have somewhat different ideas of what we should be doing in the community level, what our priorities should be compared to the older population, who may be more conservative about sort of keeping their own ways, and particularly the kinds of government programs that may benefit them more than the younger part of the population. I think that’s the kind of gap I’m talking about.

Now, the BlackBerry stuff, that – I just threw that in. I mean, there’s always that kind of generation gap where young people are kind of ahead of the curve and have their own music and have their own technology and so forth, and I think that makes it even more stronger. But I was thinking more of just the race and ethnic disparity between these young people and the older generation. And what it takes is politicians and community and civic leaders to try to bridge that gap and try to explain to people why it’s important to the young people why they should pay attention to the interests of the older people and vice versa. And it would be nice if more of that happened, and I think it will have to.

MODERATOR: Let’s go to Christian and then we’ll come to the young lady in the purple.

QUESTION: Yeah, Christian Wernicke, Suddeutschen Zeitung. I’d like to come back to your analysis of the developments in the African American population, and to put it bluntly, is it only now that we overcome the heritage of slavery and civil war? Is it what you described as a trend for desegregation? Is it – could you elaborate a little bit on this? Because it was always this huge gap between North and South, also economically. And it seems to be fading away.

MR. FREY: Well, it’s a very difficult part of our history in the United States and it’s going to take a long time for us, I think, to completely eliminate some of the difficulties that have occurred over time. And I don’t want to paint this too much with – or look at this with rose-colored glasses. I think there’s – there are difficulties.

I mean, I talked about there’s less segregation now than there was before, but it’s still the case in the United States that the average black person lives in a neighborhood – let’s put it this way. Black folks in the United States, 60 percent of them would have to change residence to be distributed in the same neighborhoods as whites are in the United States, using a simple segregation index. And that comes down from maybe 70 percent and 80 percent 20, 30 years ago in a lot of places. But there’s a high level of segregation. There’s also not a high level of interracial marriage, although the new Census has shown that there is a big increase in the number of people who are identifying themselves as black and African American, but it’s still a very tiny piece of what’s going on.

So even though I’m saying things are changing, and I think they are changing generationally, this is still a longstanding piece of our history that’s going to be with us for a while. And I’m just, I think, optimistic about the fact that the younger generation – not only because they’re more – they have wider world views about things, and that’s where the BlackBerrys and the iPhones and everything come in, they’re much more connected to the rest of the world and the rest of the country – but they’re also better off economically than earlier generations and African Americans. And younger generations of whites also, I think, have more open attitudes about all of this.

But it takes a long time to have this change in a very big way, and I think part of the thing about the South, which is both interesting and good, is that it’s the growing parts of the South, the economically prosperous parts of the South. Atlanta is the biggest gainer of blacks in the United States. It just over – metropolitan Atlanta just overtook metropolitan Chicago as having the second biggest black population in the United States. That’s a huge statement after many decades of blacks leaving the South and going to places like Chicago to have that be overtaken, and so part of that is the economic attraction of blacks. But also there is a cultural attraction to the South, and I think this is what’s interesting about our history, and that we’re coming full circle from a time when blacks really were not treated well at all in the South, where now there’s something about the lifestyle there that still, many generations later, is attractive to the African American population in a better economic climate and a better social climate that brings more of them back. And I think we’re going to see even more blacks moving to the South as baby boomer blacks who live in northern cities decide to retire and they’re going to wind up moving back to the South as well. But it’s a long road and I don’t to give the misperception that we have solved this division in our country.

QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Josefina Ilustre, Malaya, Philippines. How you already have the first African American president? Given these numbers, how soon are we going to have the first Hispanic American president and the first Asian American president? Also, more immediately, in the coming elections, 2012 – I know you answered some of these questions – regarding redistricting, how is that going to affect the outcome of the – next year’s elections? And are the Asian Americans and Hispanic Americans, are they in the swing states which will decide the outcome?

MR. FREY: Yes. Well, to your first question, I think Barack Obama proved that in America today, if you’re a good candidate, you can get elected no matter what race/ethnicity you are. I mean, I think that’s a very important statement. He was a very strong candidate and people who might have not voted for him for other reasons, his background and so forth, decided to overlook that because he was a strong candidate. And so I think he’s made a statement along those lines that means that Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans can now more easily get to that state because, I mean, it’s the black population which has been most discriminated against historically in the United States, than – more so than any of the other groups. And if he’s been able to cross that line, I’m sure the other candidates, if they can be strong like he is and have the support of their party and so forth, can do that.

I don’t handicap who’s out there and who can actually – who’s in this situation, but we do have several governors who are – have been Hispanic and Asian and members of the Senate and members of state congressional bodies, so I mean – or state assemblies and so forth. So I think that it’s not far away and it’s a matter of if you’re a good candidate or not. The swing states – I mentioned a little bit about the Hispanic growth in those states, and I think that the issue is, at this point, whether or not you have 50 percent of the state that’s minorities and is important is whether you have enough minorities to make a difference between the two parties.

Texas will be a hard state to come. I think Texas is a very Republican state and even though there’s a lot of Hispanics that live there, it’s very solidly Republican, and I don’t think – and at least in the forthcoming election, we’ll see a big changeover. But a state like Nevada or even a state like Arizona, where there were enough Hispanics or blacks or Asians or the combination of them can make the difference between very close elections. I think those are the states where they’re going to make a difference, because we really only have four states in addition to the – Washington, D.C. where minorities make over 50 percent of the population. It’s New Mexico, California, Hawaii, and Texas.

And I think your other question is relevant in that one of the issues with Hispanics is a much smaller percentage of them are in the voting population than are in the actual population. And the reason is that some of them, a good number of them, are under age 18 because they have a younger age structure. And then of those who are eligible to vote, they don’t register as much. Some of them are not legal residents to the United States, but that’s only a small slice. But many of them who are legal residents don’t – decide they don’t want to register to vote or even come out and vote. And what’s happened in a place like North Carolina last time is that there were people registering to vote, there were people coming out to vote. So, I mean, it depends on the issue, I think, and it depends on the candidate.

But I think it’s all in play now. I think this is going to be a very interesting time. In this last 10 years, we’ve seen these sharp demographic changes which are going to make a big difference in how people look at racial candidates who identify with different racial groups, and also how different racial groups can make a difference in the election.

MODERATOR: We only have time for two more questions, so we’ll go here and in back.

QUESTION: Ansar Graw from the German newspaper Die Welt. The development you just explained to us, it does not only mean that the whites will lose their status as a majority, but also that from – I think your colleagues earlier mentioned the 1940 – 2042, that from this time, there will only be minorities in the United States. What does it mean if you have a society existing only of minorities – for example, for the question of growing tangents between the different minorities of the question – for the question of English as a lingua franca which will be endangered by other languages, especially by the Spanish language? What do you think, what do you expect in – on – in the question of disadvantages of this development?

MR. FREY: Well, I think that’s a good question. I mean, I’ll start by saying we have a history in the United States of blending people. It’s been a long time since we’ve done it. It’s a hundred years ago we had people moving into the United States from different parts of Europe. They weren’t different racial and ethnic – they weren’t different racial groups, but they were different nationality groups. And they could have been different racial groups in the way they initially were treated when they came here to the United States, but eventually, after a couple generations, they were able to meld together and did pretty well. So we have some history of this in the United States.

The other thing is that people come to the United States largely for economic reasons. They come here because they think they can have a better life, that they can have a better job. And that – I think a lot of the research shows that they feel in order to do that, they have to speak English, that they have to become part of the middle class, that they have to be – assimilate into the U.S. Now whether or not it’s easy or hard in different parts of the United States to do these things, I think that’s the real issue, and it certainly will depend on local community leaders and how this kind of cultural generation gap gets resolved over time.

But survey after survey of young people who come to the United States from Mexico or Asia or wherever it is say they want to learn to speak English, they want to speak English, they want to get a good education, and I think that says a lot about why they’re here as opposed to coming here for ideological reasons or something like this. People – I mean, a lot of books have been written saying we have a large part of our country that have a large Hispanic populations or from Mexico and we might be – we should be concerned that this will be – sort of partial out that part of the country as being kind of separate. But I don’t see any real evidence of that happening when you look at the actual way people sort of move into their education and how they want to learn English.

And I think the main barrier to that is going to be the kinds of education opportunities we can support – we can bring to bear on these folks. I mean, that’s why it’s so crucial in these days when we have difficult financial situations in state and local government that we have to make sure that this is a priority.

MODERATOR: The last question.

QUESTION: Good afternoon. Shanshan Wang from China Radio International. Just now, you mentioned the past decade was the pivot period for the growth of the Hispanic and the Asian population. Was that growth a gradual buildup of the growth in the previous decade or a sharp increase? If it’s the latter case, what are the major contributing factors to that, and how do you see the growth develop in this decade? Thank you.

MR. FREY: Yes. I mean, it’s a continuation for sure, and especially for the Hispanic population, the major source of the growth this decade is from births, not from immigration, whereas in the last decade it was from immigration. So we have a kind of population momentum – demographers call this population momentum – we have enough people here they reproduce themselves without having to get new immigrants coming in. And so that is the main – and it also means that momentum will continue over time even though we continue to have immigrants coming in from other parts of the country.

For the Asian population, still a slightly higher percentage this decade have come from immigration rather than natural increase, but that population momentum is building as well. So the growth rate for Hispanics was much higher in the ‘90s than it is now, but that growth rate now is based on a much bigger base population, so you wouldn’t expect the growth rate to be as high. Numerically, we get just as many Hispanics this decade as last decade, but from a different source.

Well, a lot of people who say, “Well, we shouldn’t – if we stop -- ” they’re concerned we have too many Hispanics or something like we should stop immigration. It’s too late. I mean, we have – (laughter) – immigration is not the biggest part of change anymore, and I think it’s a good thing.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Mr. Frye.

MR. FREY: Sure.

MODERATOR: Thank you all for coming.