By Tamara Draut
March 8, 2006 - 11:14am ET
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In yesterday’s New York Times, an article pronounced “Whites to Be Minority in New York Area Soon.” While whites have been the minority in New York City for over two decades, the suburbs are now becoming more diverse, mirroring the demographic face of the city. This change has already occurred in Los Angeles, Miami and Houston. And by 2050, one-half of the US population will be Latino or non-white.
The question is, will America do the work to ensure the future middle class of this country finally reflects the face of America? With economic mobility on the decline and our public structures in decay, there’s little reason to be optimistic.
Rising education costs, decaying urban and rural schools and the shredding of the safety net have all made it more difficult for a new generation to work or educate their way into the middle class. Add in the cutthroat capitalism that defines America’s economy and the average worker—who is increasingly non-white—faces intense barriers to entering and remaining in the middle class.
America built a large middle class in the post-war era by investing in its infrastructure, though racism and discrimination prevented many black Americans from riding the wave of prosperity. It wasn’t until the Civil Rights Act and the ensuing anti-discrimination reform of education and lending that both blacks and Latinos began to enter the middle class in large numbers. Yet much progress is still needed to narrow the racial disparities in homeownership, educational attainment, income and wealth.
Already, we are a nation defined by distressing racial and ethnic inequities. If the population forecasts bear out and we do nothing to rebuild opportunity, the divides of tomorrow will be even greater.
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