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Originally published Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 6:49 PM

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Social changes shatter regional stereotypes, study finds

Social changes in the past decade, especially the increase in racial and ethnic minorities, are scrambling regional stereotypes and altering the traditional portrait of the nation.

McClatchy Newspapers

Information

The State of Metropolitan America: www.brookings.edu/metro/state_of_metro_america.aspx

New groupings for nation

Metropolitan areas

"Next Frontier" areas exceed national averages on population growth, diversity and educational attainment. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue is included in this category, along with Albuquerque, N.M., and Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas.

"New Heartland" areas are fast growing, highly educated locales, but have lower shares of Hispanic and Asian populations than the national average. Atlanta and Portland, Ore.-Vancouver, Wash., are included in this category.

"Diverse Giant" areas are some of the largest metro areas in the country. They have above-average educational attainment and diversity, but below-average population growth, owing in part to their size. Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, Ill., and San Diego are included in this category.

"Border Growth" areas are mostly in Southwestern border states and, as such, are marked by a significant and growing presence of Mexican and other Latin American immigrants. El Paso, Texas, and Modesto, Calif., and Orlando, Fla., are included in this category.

"Mid-Sized Magnet" areas are similar in their recent growth and educational profile to Border Growth centers, but are distinguished by lower shares of Hispanic and Asian minorities. Baton Rouge, La., and Oklahoma City are included in this category.

"Skilled Anchor" areas are slow-growing, less diverse metro areas that boast higher-than-average levels of educational attainment. Akron, Ohio, and Milwaukee are included in this category.

"Industrial Core" areas are slower-growing, less diverse and less educated than national averages and significantly older than the large metropolitan average. Dayton, Ohio, and Tulsa, Okla., are included in this category.

McClatchy Newspapers

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WASHINGTON — Forget about the Midwest, Kansas City. You're now part of the "New Heartland."

So are you, Charleston, S.C., even with all your Spanish moss and Southern charm, and you too, Portland, Ore., way out there on the Pacific Coast.

These three metropolitan areas couldn't be farther apart geographically.

Demographically, however, they might have more in common than with some regional neighbors, according to a new study by the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

Social changes in the past decade, especially the increase in racial and ethnic minorities, are scrambling regional stereotypes and altering the traditional portrait of the nation.

"Our metropolitan areas are on the front lines of demographic transformation," said Bruce Katz, director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings. "Every trend that is affecting the nation — growth, diversity, aging, education disparities, income inequities — is affecting our major metropolitan areas first at a speed, scale and complexity that are truly historic."

Nonwhite majority

The study, "State of Metropolitan America," said the nation is on course to become a nonwhite majority country in another three decades or so.

Among the study's highlights:

• The nation's population grew by nearly 9 percent in the past decade, fueled largely by racial and ethnic minorities. Metro areas grew even faster, by 10.5 percent.

• Half of all children in the top 100 metro areas are nonwhite.

• Nationally, one in eight Americans is foreign-born; in metro areas, one in six is.

• Only five of those metro areas had populations in 1990 where minorities made up the majority. Now, 17 do.

Meanwhile, the combined total of baby boomers and seniors reached more than 100 million in the past decade, the study found. A large majority live in the suburbs. But those neighborhoods weren't built to accommodate an aging population. And they live alongside the growing percentage of nonwhite youths, which the report called a recipe for a "cultural generation gap."

Emerging divide

Another emerging divide is in education, according to the study. More than 80 percent of Hispanic and African-American adults don't have bachelor's degrees. Whites and Asians are more than twice as likely to have completed college.

The data come from the Census Bureau's annual America Community Survey.

The "New Heartland" of Kansas City, Charleston and Portland is one of seven divisions Brookings created to reflect the changing economic, demographic and social climate since 2000.

Other divisions group metro areas near the Southwestern border, and those with higher growth, diversity and education levels. Shared geography is not a factor.

The "Border Growth" metro areas include border cities such as El Paso and McAllen in Texas, but also Fresno, Modesto, Bakersfield and Stockton in California's San Joaquin Valley. They are marked by a significant and growing presence of Mexican and other Latin American immigrants.

"Mid-Sized Magnet" metro areas such as Boise, Idaho, and Bradenton, Fla., have similar growth and educational profiles to "Border Growth" areas, but have lower shares of Hispanic and Asian minorities.

Of the eight metro areas described as "Next Frontier," eight — including Dallas-Fort Worth, Seattle-Tacoma and Sacramento, Calif. — are west of the Mississippi River (only the Washington, D.C., metro area is east). They exceed national averages on population growth, diversity and educational attainment. Their diversified economies and relatively mild climates have attracted immigrants, families and educated workers, according to the study.

The St. Louis metro area is in the "Skilled Anchor" group, marked by slow growth and less diversity, but with education levels higher than the national average. Middle-class wages are slightly higher than nationally, though they have dipped since 2000.

Other "Skilled Anchor" metro areas include Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Jackson, Miss.

Then there's Wichita, Kan. There might be no more iconic a symbol of the heartland than the Sunflower State.

But Brookings placed the Wichita metro area in its "Industrial Core," a collection of older, slow-growth manufacturing centers with aging, less diverse populations.

Think Detroit, or Birmingham, Ala.

"A new map is emerging," Katz said.

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