How the USA is Changing: Part 1

This series of graphs by Danielle Kurtzleben entitled 21 charts that explain
how the US is changing is exactly the type projections of the future which sparks my imagination. Some are already well known such as the changing demographics but others are totally new. All of them enhance our understanding of the future of the USA over the next 50 years.

Main picture: One possible future but not within the next century

US population by Race & ethnicity
The USA is becoming more diverse

The US population is changing drastically, particularly in the areas of race and ethnicity. By 2050, white non-Hispanics will be a minority of the American population, according to Census projections. The biggest reason for that decline is the growth of the Hispanic population, whose share is set to nearly double between 2010 and 2050, from 16 to 30 percent. Though immigration is one reason for this shift, a large part of it is that white non-Hispanics aren’t having as many babies as minorities. As of 2012, the majority of all babies born in the US were minorities.

Older population by Age


The US Population is getting older

The Baby Boomers have only just started retiring, and they will help continue to grow the elderly share of the population in the coming decades. But it’s not just that population bulge that has made the American population older; extending life expectanices have helped drive this trend as well. According to the latest data from the CDC, as of 2010, the US life expectancy at birth was 78.7 years, up from 78.5 in 2009. However, those gains haven’t been even; women have gained more than men from health advances, and it’s only women in certain parts of the country.

Mean centre of the US population

The USpopulation is gradually moving farther and farther west, plus a little south

Yes, the 1800s were the age of westward expansion, but the trend never really stopped. One way the Census Bureau measures geographic shifts is by measuring the US’s “mean center of population” — that is, “the place where an imaginary, flat, weightless and rigid map of the United States would balance perfectly” if all Americans weighed exactly the same. As of 2010, that point was near the village of Plato, Missouri. But this westward and southward doesn’t necessarily mean that lots of Americans are packing up and moving west and south…rather, it simply means that the populations of the West and South keep growing faster than the Northeast and Midwest. That includes people moving, but also shifts in birth rates and immigration.

The rising age of marriage

The US is getting married later and later…sort of

Conventional wisdom says that Americans are getting married later and later. But that’s only true if you look at it from the standpoint of the 1950s and 60s. But that period, when Americans more often than not married in their early 20s, itself came after a decline in the age of first marriage. Not only that, but American life expectancy has grown longer and longer, as the Census Bureau pointed out in a blog post earlier this year. So while people waited half their lives to marry in 1890, today they wait only around one-third.

The great crossover

Even while marriage is delayed, nobody is delaying having kids

Americans have been delaying marriage since the middle of the 20th century, but in the late 1980s, something interesting happened: as a nation, we started having babies before we were married. Today, almost half of all babies are born to unmarried mothers, and the median first birth happens around one year earlier in a woman’s life than her median age of first marriage.

Ideological chasm


More polarized politically

A 2014 report from the Pew Research Center found that the two main political parties are drifting further from each other ideologically. Americans are far more likely to be consistently conservative or consistently liberal than they were 10 or 20 years ago.

Unitary state

US considers itself as a single, unitary nation. That wasn’t always the case.

It may not strike us now as odd that we use “The United States” as a singular noun, but this wasn’t always the way everyone spoke. Google N-gram data, which tracks words across Google Books, shows that in the mid-1800s, it was roughly as common to refer to the United States in the singular sense as it was to refer to the United States as a plural group of states that were united. It reveals a profound shift in how Americans think. In the late 19th century, Americans appear to have started thinking of the US as one big actor instead of many smaller ones.

Percentage preferring no religion

The US is becoming less and less religious

As of 2013, the US was the least religious it had ever been since the 1930s, according to an analysis from University of California, Berkeley researchers. In that year, 20 percent of Americans said they had “no religious preference,” up from just 8 percent in 1990.

Income concentration

The USA is becoming more unequal

Thanks to the efforts of people like Occupy protesters, Robert Reich, and Thomas Piketty, inequality has over the last few years become central in both economic and political discussions. And one of the most striking facts about inequality is that the wealthiest Americans now have as high a concentration of the national income as they did during the early 20th century. While the share of income the richest Americans received was muted throughout the middle of the 1900s, it skyrocketed after the 1980s.

Educational attainment

Educational gains have been steady and long-standing

Inequality and social immobility are areas where the US could use some improvement. So if you want some good news, here it is: the US population has become far more educated than it once was. True, there are some problems with the education system — inequality between schools, for example, not to mention skyrocketing college tuition costs — but that the majority of the population over 25 went from not having a high school diploma to at least having some college in the span of 40 years is astonishing.


Danielle Kurtzleben

Danielle Kurtzleben


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