According to Martin and Fogel (2006), the flow of immigrants, both legal and illegal, is causing a rapid change in the population of the United States. According to the authors, the projected population of the United States by the year 2050 will be close to 450 million, which is roughly 150 million more than the population in 2005.
The appearance of American urban, suburban, and rural areas continues to be redefined by the country’s changing population. In terms of urban cities, areas have responded differently to immigration and population changes (Hill, Wolman, Kowalcyzk, & St. Clair, 2012). Some urban areas have seen steady population growth since 1960, while others have seen marked and consistent population losses. Hill et al. (2012) state that both population decreases and increases can commonly be tied to economic shifts. Despite the economic challenges that many urban centers are facing, the U.S. Census Bureau (2012) states that 80.7% of the nation’s population reside in urban areas.
American suburbs can be found on the outskirts of urban areas. These suburban areas continue to grow as improved transportation between populated areas is constructed. Employment in the suburbs is also becoming more accessible, as commercial and industrial groups move from within urban centers to more suburban settings (Stief, 2013). As developers try to keep pace with the demand for suburban living, disorganized housing developments, known as sprawl, are beginning to appear.
While 95% of U.S. land is classified as rural, only 19.3% of the country’s population resides there (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012). Those living in rural areas face challenges such as limited health care and bleak employment opportunities. Agriculture is the main focus for many inhabitants of rural areas. While many living in urban areas are transitioning to suburban living, those from rural areas are migrating to more populated areas. They are in search of technological improvements, employment, education, and stable economic opportunities.
The United States has long been known as a melting pot of cultural diversity. While this was once celebrated in our country, it appears to have taken a different turn. While many Americans were born into families with members that had immigrated to the country at some point, there seems to be a clear hostility directed to immigrant newcomers. This is partly due to the nation’s murky policies on immigration as well as hostility to those who do not instantly assimilate to traditional American culture. Many believe that immigrants have no interest in assimilating into the standard culture, preferring to maintain their native culture within the boundaries of the United States. While this may be true for some, the majority of people are trying their best to navigate a new language, location, and culture while still providing for their families.
Racism and prejudice, along with inequality, are something that must be combatted as population growth continues. The economic situation in the United States has added fuel to this fire. Immigrants are often willing to take employment for wages that are below the standard in this country. To Americans who are unemployed or underemployed, this is often construed as “immigrants stealing jobs.” In reality, however, it is just a sad depiction of the bleak economic times that face all Americans at the moment, regardless of birth place.
The United States has a long way to go in terms of immigration policy and race relations. However, as new generations are formed, long held prejudices often fade away, opening the door for meaningful conversations to be had and improvements to be made.
- Hill, E., Wolman, H., Kowalcyzk, K. & St. Clair, T. (2012). Forces affecting city population growth or decline: The effects of interregional and inter-municipal competition. Retrieved from http://americanassembly.org
- Martin, J. & Fogel S. (2006). Projecting the U.S. population to 2050: Four immigration scenarios. Retrieved from http://www.fairus.org
- Stief, C. (2012). An overview of suburbs: The history and development of suburbs. Retrieved from http://geography.about.com/od/urbaneconomicgeography/a/suburbs.htm
- U.S. Census Bureau (2012). Growth in urban population outpaces rest of nation. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/2010_census/cb12-50.html