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Changing Diversity Challenges The Rural South
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- A look around nearly any part of the country reveals that the United States still is a melting pot as racial and ethnic minorities grow in numbers.
A recent study commissioned by the Southern Rural Development Center headquartered at Mississippi State University, found that the South leads the rest of the country in overall population, population growth and racial diversity. Dr. Steve Murdock, professor and chair of the Department of Rural Sociology at Texas A University, authored the report.
"There is a story here about diversification in the country, and the South is a particularly good example of it," Murdock said. "This increasing diversification provides an indication of some of the long-term issues related to race and ethnicity change in a region."
The U.S. population is currently 72 percent white, 12 percent black, 11 percent Hispanic and 5 percent Asian, American Indian and others. The U.S. Bureau of the Census projects that by 2060, whites will make up less than half the population, and by 2100, the U.S. population will be 40 percent white, 33 percent Hispanic, 13 percent black, 13 percent Asian and Pacific Islander and 1 percent American Indian.
"If you look at most states' populations, they are internationalizing just like our economies are," Murdock said. "What is unusual is not what we will be, but what we have been. We are becoming increasingly reflective of the world's population, just as our economy is becoming increasingly global."
While increasing diversity means racial and ethnic groups will be represented more equally, there is a potential down side to these demographic changes. Historically, many minority groups in urban and rural areas of the South have been educationally and economically disadvantaged. The risk is that without social change, these growing racial and ethnic groups will continue with these same disadvantages and impoverishment.
"If the socioeconomic differences between whites and minority populations continue, the changing demographics of the South could lead to populations that are increasingly impoverished and lacking the human capital necessary to compete effectively in a global economy," Murdock said.
He was quick to point out that minority status does not destine someone to poverty, but noting these differences is the first step towards bringing about improvement.
"We must recognize that all our futures are tied to how well all segments of our society are doing. Our fates as racial and ethnic groups are interrelated," Murdock said. "Our future success as a society will depend on how well the working-age population is doing."
Improving the long-term socioeconomic conditions of minorities is important to all people in the United States. The South is no exception.
"The key is to provide the educational and training programs necessary to ensure that all segments of American society have the skills to be competitive in an international society," he said.
The report, "The increasing diversity of the rural South: Challenges and opportunities in future population growth," is part of a Southern Rural Development Series titled The Rural South: Preparing for the Challenges of the 21st Century. Copies of the report are available from the Center by calling (662) 325-3207.
Contact: Dr. Steve Murdock, (409) 845-5332