SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. — From a distance, the small group of Haitian immigrants at the public library looks like a prayer meeting or political gathering. Dressed colorfully but comfortably, the women speak in heavily accented English and sit every day for hours around a small wooden table studying to be nurses.
The library sits at the heart of one of the most diverse counties in the USA. More than 50 languages are spoken in the public schools, and this is what more and more communities across America will look like soon — very soon.
Racial and ethnic diversity is spreading far beyond the coasts and into surprising places across the USA, rapidly changing how Americans live, learn, work and worship together — and even who our neighbors are.
Cities and towns far removed from traditional urban gateways such as New York, Miami, Chicago and San Francisco are rapidly becoming some of the most diverse places in America, an analysis of demographic data by USA TODAY shows.
Small metro areas such as Lumberton, N.C., and Yakima, Wash., and even remote towns and counties — such as Finney County, Kan., or Buena Vista County, Iowa — have seen a stunning surge in immigrants, making those places far more diverse.
The USA is experiencing a "great wave" of immigration — call it a "second great wave." The first, which stretched from the 1880s to the 1920s, coincided with the opening of Ellis Island and the social and political transformation of the nation.
The people in this second wave, arriving roughly since 1970, are more likely to be middle-class and, because of improved transportation and technology, can assimilate more quickly.
The result: For the first time, the next person you meet in this country — at work, in the library, at a coffee shop or a movie ticket line — will probably be of a different race or ethnic group than you.
USA TODAY used Census data to calculate the chance that two random people are different by race or ethnicity and came up with a Diversity Index to place every county on a scale of 0 to 100. The nationwide USA TODAY Diversity Index hit 55 in 2010, up sharply from 20 in 1960 and 40 as recently as 1990. In South Orange, the index is 59.
This is just the beginning. Barring catastrophe or a door-slam on immigration, the Diversity Index is on track to top 70 by 2060, according to a USA TODAY analysis of population projections by ProximityOne of Alexandria, Va. That means there will be less than a 1-in-3 chance that the next person you meet will share your race or ethnicity, whatever it is: white, black, American Indian, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Hispanic.
As people from varying cultures and races come together or collide, local governments and other institutions deal with a host of new issues, from conflicts over spending and diverse hiring to violence in the streets and language barriers.
This month, health workers in Dallas going door-to-door at the 300-unit apartment complex that housed the first U.S. patient with Ebola had to translate leaflets about the disease into eight languages. Among the tenants, the complex's owner said, were many refugees being resettled.
Students witness the changing face of the country firsthand: Public schools began the 2014-15 school year with an unprecedented profile: For the first time, non-Hispanic white students are in the minority, according to Education Department projections.
Almost half of the Americans, 49%, polled by USA TODAY say the country will be "better off" as communities diversify, racing toward a point where no racial or ethnic group has a majority; 25% say the country would be "worse off."
The fastest change is happening in regions such as the upper Midwest, where there was almost no diversity 30 years ago. Minnesota's Diversity Index rose from 7 in 1980 to 31 in 2010. Diversity has sprouted in many places because of local factors.
• In Finney County, Kan., the Diversity Index rocketed from 46 to 60 from 1990 to 2010. Two big meatpacking plants that employ more than 2,500 drew immigrants. The county is 47% Hispanic. The same pattern has made Buena Vista County, Iowa, pop. 20,000, the most diverse in the state. Its Diversity Index soared from 6 in 1990 to 49 in 2010.
• In Monroe County, Pa., in the Pocono Mountains, the Diversity Index jumped from 9 in 1990 to 48 in 2010 as minorities from Queens and Brooklyn, N.Y., came looking for a home they could afford to own.
Just 3% of counties had a Diversity Index that topped 50 in 1990, but today, 14% do. At the top end of the scale, hyper-diverse counties whose index tops 67 have nearly doubled since 2000, from 33 to 60. They, too, are spreading. They're located in 17 states, up from 10 states in 2000.
An inner-ring suburb of Newark, South Orange has consciously struggled for decades to maintain its racial, ethnic and economic diversity, even as rising housing prices have squeezed moderate- and low-income families out of neighboring suburbs. Here, the index was just 8 in 1970. It soared to 57 in 2000 and 59 in 2010.
Like Newark, it's part of Essex County, where the index has hit 72, up from 69 in 2000. Librarians increasingly find themselves not just checking out books but providing space for groups of immigrants — as well as for a growing corps of volunteers who tutor newcomers in English and run conversation groups. Nearly a third of the library's patrons speak a language other than English at home, and among the most requested products is an online language tutoring program, library Director Melissa Kopecky says.
"I've always said that the public library is the living room of the community," says Keisha Miller, who runs the library's teen programs. "This is where you come — you have conversations, you meet people, you see your neighbors, you make new friends, you see old friends." Miller, 32, attended school here as well. She's the daughter of immigrants from Trinidad and Jamaica.
More multi-cultural hogwash. I noticed that they failed to mention that with increased diversity the crime rate has gone way up. I suppose the liberals would say it's just a coincidence and diversity has nothing to do with. If you believe that you'll believe anything.
If you're curious to see how your county rates with diversity go to this page: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/10/21/diversity-race-ethnicity-change-100-years/16211133/
Place the cursor on the approximate area of your state where your county is to find yours.
Sorry I wasn't able to post it on this blog. I just couldn't do it.