United States in throes of rapid change

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Yahoo! Asia - News World

Thursday, November 2 9:17 PM SGT

United States in throes of rapid change WASHINGTON, Nov 1 (AFP) - The United States, the world's richest nation, is home to 275 million people but one in 10 of them was born elsewhere.

Immigration is rapidly changing the face of the society founded 224 years ago, with its Declaration of Independence from Britain.

Seventy-one percent of its people are white, according to the Census Bureau. But that will change within 50 years, if current demographic and immigration trends continue. African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans will then outnumber whites.

Currently, one in 10 Americans, or 26.4 million people, was born outside the United States, a record since the 1950s. Some 6.5 million people speak little or no English, while 17.3 million speak exclusively Spanish.

The United States is also slowly being transformed by a decade of prosperity, but poverty is prevalent.

The world's richest country, with an annual gross domestic product of 8,000 billion dollars, the United States nonetheless has a significant underclass of people. They account for 11.8 percent of the population, or 32.3 million people.

Minorities are more affected by poverty. More than 23 percent of blacks live below the poverty line compared to under eight percent of non-Hispanic whites.

The recent economic boom has pulled many people out of poverty, however. Some 2.2 million people rose out of poverty, defined as an income of 17,000 dollars for a family of four, between 1998 and 1999.

The unemployment rate has also shrunk during a decade of uninterrupted growth and is now just around four percent, its lowest level in 30 years.

Median household income stands at 40,000 dollars a year with a large gap in average women's and men's income of 26,300 dollars and 36,300 dollars, respectively.

The US population is graying perceptibly. The average age of the population has gone from 32.8 years in 1990 to 35.2 years in 1998.

Those aged 65 and older make up 12.7 percent of the population, a total of 34.4 million people. The Census Bureau forecasts that the figure will double in the next 30 years.

The number of Americans without health insurance has declined along with the economic boom, but the figure is still significant, with 42.6 million people having no cover, including 10 million children in 1999.

The descendants of the revolutionaries who fought a war against Britain for self-rule, appear to be losing their taste for active democracy.


A declining number of Americans appear to be interested in exercising their right to vote.

Though 62 percent of voting age people are registered to vote, fewer than half do so.

Only 42 percent voted in the 1998 congressional elections while 49 percent voted in the 1996 presidential polls. More than 60 percent voted in presidential elections in the 1960s.

-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), November 02, 2000

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