Shifting Demographics: Our Responsibilities and Responsiveness


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Original Image, "As If," Emmanuela Copal de León, 2001


Shifting Demographics: Our Responsibilities and Responsiveness



One of every five students in the United States is the child of an immigrant but, according to recent findings, middle and high schools are unprepared to provide instruction for the shifting demographics. The Urban Institute, a non-profit policy research organization based in Washington, authored the report "Overlooked and Underserved: Immigrant Children in U.S. Secondary Schools," which gives a failing grade in education for immigrants across the country.

The report also finds that immigrants' children are, in effect, far more likely to be schooled in segregated settings than African-American children, even though Black students have often been placed in resegregated schools, despite the forward movement of the civil rights era. Immigrant students generally are clustered in schools with heavy concentrations of other immigrants. These children face isolation and poverty to a degree unknown by previous generations of newcomers. Nationwide, the presence of immigrants' children has increased dramatically, tripling in schools in the past 30 years. They now account for about 20 percent of the school population -- more than African-Americans, who represent 16 percent.


The Census Bureau reports explosive growth in the Hispanic population over the past decade. There are nearly 13 million more Hispanic people than in 1990. At 35.3 million, this population group is close in size to the nation's largest minority group, non-Hispanic blacks, which has 35.5 million people. The Hispanic population is relatively young, with a median age of 25.9 years, compared with 35.3 years for the population overall. In Washington State, the Hispanic population doubled in the last decade. Hispanics make up a significant percentage of the total population in several of the nation's largest cities: San Antonio (59 percent), Los Angeles (47 percent), Houston (37 percent), Dallas (36 percent), Phoenix (34 percent), New York (27 percent), Chicago (26 percent).