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Dover Post
  • Charita Goshay: Future America won’t look like yours

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  • It’s not the kind of shift you can feel beneath your feet, but make no mistake, America is undergoing some seismic changes.
    Recent studies present us with a glimpse of a future America we couldn’t have envisioned even 25 years ago.
    The research shows that we’re getting older, browner, less religious yet more religiously diverse, and more likely to be from somewhere else.
    According to the Center for Immigration Studies, 40 million people — more than 10 percent of the U.S. population — are foreign-born. That’s up 28 percent from 2000.
    A century ago, America’s single largest group of immigrants, 1.04 million in 1910, hailed primarily from Europe, specifically Italy and Ireland. Anti-Irish, pro-nativist sentiment was blatant. Italians were the second-most likely ethnic group, after black men, to be lynched.
    Today, most immigrants come from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, India and China. Though most classify themselves as Christian, a growing number of Muslims and Hindus are emigrating here.
    What does this shift in who’s coming ashore mean to the rest of us? For one thing, it means more business start-ups. Immigrants open a higher percentage of small businesses than native-born Americans, with Mexicans leading the way.
    It means an ethnic diversity beyond what we’ve known, which means that the America of the future will be more socially complicated. But even that’s not exactly new. Our culture, from bluegrass to baklava, has always been a mash-up of what immigrants have brought with them to America.
    Nevertheless, history is no match for fear. Now, as in 1910, immigration scares some people because it brings a change in the America in which they thought they lived.
    Novelist Ed Falco points outs that the people who went ballistic at the idea of a mosque being built near the Twin Towers’ footprint might be shocked to learn that St. Patrick’s Cathedral was built outside the original limits of New York City for the same reason: fear and religious hatred toward people who personify “otherness.”
    A recent Pew Research Center report on Millennials found that this group of Americans born after 1980 tends to be browner, less affluent, more distrustful of institutions and less religious than their predecessors when they were the same age, and in no rush to marry. For example:
    • 43 percent of Millennials are non-white. By 2050, the majority of Americans will be people from current-day minority groups.
    • 29 percent of Millennials do not affiliate themselves with any religion.
    • 50 percent describe themselves as politically independent, though most tend to vote Democratic.
    • Of all the age groups, Millennials are the least likely to take up environmental causes.
    Fifty years ago, Americans identified themselves by their politics, religion and the institutions in which they had the most faith. Millennials feel no need to be a card-carrying anything. They’re developing their own subcultures and communities by way of social media.
    Page 2 of 2 - What does all this information mean for people who aspire to power?
    Everything.
    Immigrants are more likely to be undereducated, underemployed and more poorly housed than native-born Americans, which will mean more demand for entitlement programs already being strained by the coming tsunami of 75 million retiring baby boomers.
    The political party or power structure that can address Millennials’ concerns about women’s rights, the economy and the student loan debt that is strangling their aspirations, and that helps immigrants to assimilate rather than ostracizing them, is the one that wins the future.
    Reach Charita at 330-580-8313. On Twitter: @cgoshayREP
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