Pastor offers generation gap analysis

Students, faculty and community members gathered in Lane Hall Wednesday to hear Manuel Pastor discuss dramatic demographic changes in the 2010 census data and what these numbers mean given the current economic climate.

Pastor, a professor of geography and American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California (USC), was selected to speak at Stanford by current seniors in the Urban Studies program for the program’s sixth annual lecture.

“The first thing to know about this new census data is that it shows some pretty dramatic demographic change,” Pastor said.

He then proceeded to outline several surprising statistics from the 2010 census data.

The first demographic change that Pastor talked about was that although the growth rates of Asian Pacific Islander and Hispanic populations, 42.7 percent and 43 percent respectively, are very high, they have actually decreased since the 2000 census.

“The majority of new [population] growth is not driven by immigration, but by second and third generation immigrant births,” Pastor said.

The presentation largely focused on the changing nature of ethnic demographics in the United States.

“We, as a country, by the year 2042, will become majority-minority,” Pastor said, meaning that by that year there will be no majority ethnicity.

Pastor noted that the national demographic changes currently occurring mirror changes that have already happened in the state of California. He added that California has already dealt with political tensions resulting from these demographic shifts –tensions that are likely to occur at a national level soon.

Another key demographic shift that Pastor addressed was not based on ethnicity, but on age. Pastor outlined the concerns posed by this change.

“Demographers are not worried about the browning of America,” Pastor said. “Demographers are worried about the graying of America.”

Pastor added that there is a generation gap between an older Caucasian population and a younger Latino population. This gap has widened since 1975. The median age for Caucasians is 41, and the median for Latinos is 27.

“This gap has consequences,” Pastor said.

Pastor indicated that states with the largest age gaps also have the lowest spending on infrastructure for the future and also spend less on education. He speculated that this could be the result of a disconnect between the older generation of Caucasians and the younger Latino generation.

Finally, Pastor discussed how the disconnect between generations, combined with extreme income inequality, may have led to the current recession. He noted that the years when the top 1 percent of earners’ income peaked, 1928 and 2008, coincided with two of the biggest economic crises in American history. Pastor said he believes equality is the key to economic growth.

“Now we’re not talking Soviet-style equality here. . . .but metropolitan areas that are more equitable show more [economic] growth over time,” Pastor said.

After the presentation, Pastor said he thought it was important for Stanford students to be aware of these new demographic trends, since the implications of these trends will dictate how society moves forward in the future.

Jamie Querubin ‘11 attended the presentation with a group of other recent college graduates working as interns in San Francisco City Hall.

“We are going to be working in a different climate for local government,” Querubin said. “Professor Pastor painted a really accurate picture of what municipalities will look like in the next 20 or 30 years.”

Keith Knapp ‘11 also said he enjoyed the presentation, remarking that the “difference in age is a kind of diversity people don’t usually talk about.”

Also in the audience was John Mollenkopf, founding director of the Urban Studies program. Mollenkopf said he was pleased to see how the program has thrived since its founding in 1972.

The talk was hosted by the Urban Studies Department and was sponsored by the American Studies Department, the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, the Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality and the Department of Sociology.