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  Chapter One:

  Size and Growth Rate
  Life Expectancy
  Age Structure
  Population Drift
  Urban, Rural, Suburban
  Foreign Born
  Large Cities



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During the second half of the century, the proportion of minorities in the population increased dramatically.
The federal government officially recognizes four population groups that are entitled to the benefits of minority preference programs: (1) American Indian or Alaska Native; (2) Asian or Pacific Islander; (3) Black; and (4) Hispanic. 

There is nothing rational or scientific about this classification. By mixing genealogy, geography, culture, and personal history, it produces many anomalies. Based on an arbitrary rule developed to meet the property requirements of slavery, blacks are defined as people with even a small fraction of African ancestry. Through a series of compromises worked out under the reservation system, American Indians are people with some minimum percentage of tribal ancestry (the percentages vary from tribe to tribe and change from time to time). Asians and Pacific Islanders are people who were born anywhere in Asia or the unrelated Pacific Islands (such as Guam) or who have an unspecified percentage of Asian ancestry. Hispanics are people who have Spanish surnames or who grew up speaking Spanish, regardless of ancestry or skin color. Each of the four groups includes many individuals who are indistinguishable from non-Hispanic whites, but for administrative purposes, they all belong to official, legally protected minorities. 

From 1800 to 1900, the proportion of such minorities in the population fell from about 20 percent to 13 percent. In 1900, minorities were predominantly black, with a thin scattering of reservation Indians, Chinese and Japanese in California, and people of Mexican descent in the Southwest. From 1900 to 1950, the relative size of the minority population remained about the same. 

Thereafter, immigration created an entirely new situation. From 1950 to 2000, the Asian proportion of the American population rose about twentyfold and the Hispanic proportion about tenfold. The American Indian proportion tripled, not because of immigration or increased fertility, but rather because of increased self-identification. As a result of political activism and fuller recognition of Indian treaty rights by the federal courts, American Indian ethnicity acquired much greater prestige. After 1970, more people of full or mixed tribal descent described themselves as American Indian. In 2000, an estimated 28 percent of Americans belonged to an official, legally protected minority group.

Chapter 1 chart 9

Source Notes
Source Abbreviations

Cary Davis, Carl Haub, and JoAnne Willette, U.S. Hispanics: Changing the Face of America, Population Bulletin 38 (June 1983):8; HS series A 91104; and SA 1999, tables 20, 37, and 38. The Hispanic proportions shown on the chart for 1950 and 2000 include only the roughly 90 percent of Hispanics who described themselves as white. This adjustment was made so that individuals who were members of two protected minorities (for example, black and Hispanic) would not be counted twice.


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