Racial/Ethnic Diversity and Economy - A Broad Overview of U.S. Counties, 2000-2014: County Scale Diversity and Economy

Racial/Ethnic Diversity and Economy - A Broad Overview of U.S. Counties, 2000-2014: County Scale Diversity and Economy

Madhuri Sharma
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/IJAGR.2020040102
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This article explores the relationships between diversity, its components, and their change with economic health at the scale of counties, using major economic characteristics such as change in population, labor-force participation, employment and unemployment, and median household income (overall and by race/ethnicity). Tract-scale and county-scale data from the National Historical Geographic Information System are used to compute diversity scores and its components, to visually analyze the spatial distribution patterns. Correlations & stepwise regression models suggest that diversity-2000 associates positively with greater diversity (overall and among non-whites) in 2014, but negatively with a change in diversity (overall, and non-white). While median household income associates with a positive change in diversity, those for Blacks associate negatively with change in diversity, largely supporting the inertia effects of Black presence as an ‘unattractive' factor. Unemployment associates with diversity & change/non-white-diversity, suggesting unemployment likely prevalent among whites. This has huge socio-economic and politics-based policy implications.
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Racial/ethnic diversity in the United States has been increasing over last few decades, particularly after the enactment of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (1965), which opened pathways for immigrants from Central and South American and Asian countries. In addition, the Vietnam War (Wood, 1997), the global scale economic restructuring coupled with rise in demands for highly skilled labor in a globally interconnected economy (Li, 1998, 2006), along with political asylum seekers from various other crises and turmoil in numerous Central and South American countries (e.g., Cuban exiles) -- cumulatively facilitated the international migration of diverse sets of population groups into USA (Duany, 2017), who eventually sought acceptance as refugees, while integrating into the host society’s economy. There also existed other types of migrants, such as the refugees from unfavorable and exploitative economic conditions, drug-wars, crime victims, including natural disaster victims from the Latin Americas (see reports by EESI, 2017 and GIZ, 2017). All of these added toward dramatic growth in USA’s total population as well as its racial/ethnic plurality. In particular, these manifested through significant gains in the shares of Asians and Hispanics since the 1970s, and more so over last two decades. Subsequently, these changes in population groups have manifested itself spatially through changing diversity and a variety of racial/ethnic mosaics, changing the social geographies of USA across the small-to-mid-sized and large-sized urban (Singer, 2003, 2004) and rural America (Lichter et al. 2006). During this process of immigrants and diverse population groups settling across America, many new-immigrant destinations were formed. This once again renewed the academic interest of regional and national scholars to examine the changing socio-spatial dynamics and their linkages with regional, national and global political-economy (e.g., Lichter et al., 2006; Smith & Furuseth, 2004; Winders, 2006, 2011a, 2011b). The NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) of 1990s further boosted fast growth of Hispanics across many U.S. regions/states, as it created opportunities across both spectrum of economy and human capital supply (Parrado & Kandel, 2011; Mohl, 2007; Odem & Lacy, 2009; Sharma, 2016, 2018).

While these various types of immigration flows have certainly changed USA’s racial/ethnic make-up at a much faster rate since the 1970s, the more recent times have also been noted for significant increase in anti-immigrant, anti-diversity and anti-minority sentiments and rhetoric across the social and political discourses all throughout the country. These have been well documented and captured in everyday news and media outlets (for example, see Lewis, 2011; Nowrasteh, 2011), including increase in incidences of violence and threats toward minorities. Some people have even expressed concerns about ‘too much diversity’ and how that has been negatively affecting their economic lives. Growing presence of immigrants and diversity has been often misrepresented by some media sources as ‘immigrants taking away their jobs’, and that ‘their presence’ in the labor market has negatively affected their (native populations’) wage bargaining capacities at their work places (for more discussions about this fear among the native population, see the papers by Passel & Cohn, 2009, 2011).

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