The United States is becoming more diverse and not just in the places you'd expect it. Small towns and suburban communities are seeing an influx in minority populations as large cities are also becoming minority-majority populations.
Last year, a majority of the babies born were non-white. By 2042, the country is expected to have no racial majority, said Myron Orfield, director of the University of Minnesota's Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity.
But the country's perception of the suburbs has been skewed for awhile, Orfield said on The Daily Circuit Tuesday.
"For a long time, we've had a false stereotype that the cities are poor and non-white and the suburbs are white and rich," he said. "I think this just isn't true."
Ron Brownstein, editorial director at National Journal, also joined The Daily Circuit. He is working on "The Next America" project.
"Our cultural image of the suburbs is locked in somewhere in the 1950s to early 1960s as kind of the enclave of white flight," he said. "The minority population is not only deepening, but dispersing."
One of the major issues going forward in the United States will be finding common ground between the younger minority population and the older white population, Brownstein said, calling it the "tension between the brown and gray." By 2021 or 2022, the country's under-18 population is expecting to be majority-minority.
"There are many ways in which the society is growing apart," he said. "Politically, the gap for example, between the preferences of minorities and whites is as wide as we've seen it ... The challenge we're talking about here about maintaining diverse suburbs is really a microcosm of a larger challenge of finding common interests."
The younger and predominately minority population sees public investment in schools and health care as a key to getting their children into the middle class, Brownstein said. The older white population is becoming more conservative and resistant to government spending.
Kai Wright, editorial director of Colorlines.com, also joined the discussion. He said the growing minority population among the youngest generation could cause serious problems down the road if the country doesn't address equal opportunity for those young people.
"We have a young population that is rapidly turning brown and black; that is the future," he said. "You see a rapidly shrinking opportunity for those young people of color ... That is going to create a challenge for all of us moving forward if the folks who are going to be the majority in the future have a shrinking opportunity as young people and therefore will have a shrinking opportunity as adults."
Wright said it's important to make a distinction between diversity and equal opportunity in our communities.
"How do we leverage the diversity?" he said. "How do we take the moment where more and more young folks interact with people across the racial lines and turn that into building something where they are having the same experience while doing so?"
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