St. Petersburg, June 2002

Herzen State Pedagogical University 

Diversity and Pluralism in America...

Through the Lens of:


Sociology Team: Dennis Hodgson (Fairfield University), Galina Gribanova (Herzen University), Alexander Orlov (Herzen University)

Diversity and Pluralism in the United States

In 1900 the US population was 90% white, 10% black, and less than 1% Native American and Asian.  Today the population is significantly more diverse:  72% non-Hispanic white, 12% black, 12% Hispanic, and 4% Asian.  The non-Hispanic white population is expected to decrease to 60% of the total over the next thirty years, and to become a minority of the population by 2060.   The image most people have of the “average American” already is outdated, and will need to change dramatically as the multicultural nature of American society becomes more pronounced.  We will examine the causes and consequences of America’s changing racial and ethnic composition.  Our goal will be to clarify America’s current racial and ethnic mosaic, and to explain its significance.  Although racial and ethnic definitions historically have been quite changeable, at any moment in time they are quite real in their consequences.  We will examine some objective measures of these consequences, looking at how race and ethnicity currently are related to education, jobs, and income.  We will also examine how race and ethnicity are subjectively felt and assessed by individuals and society.  What do these identities mean for the individuals involved?  Are individuals increasingly rejecting older racial and ethnic categories?  How thoroughly have Americans endorsed the multicultural nature of their society?  To what extent do they currently see diversity as a problem or something to celebrate?  Do they think that public policy, especially concerning language, should be made to foster diversity or uniformity?


Readings on Diversity and Pluralism in 21st Century America:

(These readings come from a variety of Population Reference Bureau publications.
You can find these publications (and more) at their web site:

For our seminar these three short "overviews" of relevant topics provide an excellent background:

  1. America's Diversity and Growth: Signposts for the 21st Century
  2. America's Racial and Ethnic Minorities
  3. Immigration to the United States
These additional "overviews" will add to your basic knowledge of American diversity and pluralism:

The American Diversity Contest

Form groups of about 10 people.

The Contest:  Which group can answer the most "diversity questions" in 20 minutes?

Don't forget to ...

Hint:  Answers to every question can be found from material in the "Sources" column.

Diversity in America:  Race, Ethnic, and Social Class Dimensions

  1. Mortality risk for select causes of death: In 1997, what was the homicide rate for blacks? What was the homicide rate for Hispanics and whites in 1997?
  2. Race and ethnicity in the Census: In which year did the Census allow people to check off more than one racial category?
  3. Occupational segregation: Which three racial/ethnic groups are more likely to work in low-paying semi-skilled or service jobs?
  4. The changing American pie: In 1999, what percentage of the population were black? What percentage of the population in 1999 were Hispanic? What will the percentages of these two groups be in 2025?
  5. Racial, ethnic diversity in female-headed households: Using the graph for 1999 data, among black households what percentage is female-headed? Has this figure increased or decreased in the past three years?
  6. Who makes the grade? Has the number of Hispanics who have not completed a high school education in the United States increased or decreased between 1975 and 1998?
  7. In 1990 how many Hispanics were counted in the US census?  How many in the year 2000?  Which Hispanic group is most numerous?  Which is growing fastest?
  8. Are there more Hispanics or Blacks living in the US today?  Why is this questions difficult to answer definitively?
  9. How do Hispanics think of themselves in terms of race?  What percent of Hispanics who selected one race on on the year 2000 census, selected the "some other race" category?   What percent of non-Hispanics selected this category?
  10. Poverty highest among recent immigrants: The five lines on the graph represent the poverty rates of a group of people entering the country at a certain time. Describe what happens over time for each group. What overall trend do you see from this graph?
  11. Half of all minorities in the US live in just five states.  What are those five states?  There are three states in the US in which minorities make up less than 5% of the population.  What are those three states?
  12. About how many people checked off more than one racial category on the year 2000 census?  What state had the highest percent of its population being multiracial?
  13. Immigrant magnets: Traditionally, new immigrants have settled along the coast. What may attract new immigrants to disperse to noncoastal areas? Is there any evidence to suggest that this may occur?
  14. African Americans return to the South: During the first half of the 20th century, many African Americans migrated out of the South. However after the 1970s, they began to return. What reasons can you think of for these shifts?
  15. Families in poverty: Even though whites make up half of the families that are considered in poverty, are they more likely to be classified as being in poverty than blacks or Hispanics?
  16. What are the top five states, ranked by percent minority?  Which states have a majority of their populations being minority?
  17. Which US minority group has the highest fertility?  Which minority group has the lowest fertility?  In which minority group has fertility decline most rapidly?
  18. The rich, the poor, and the in-between: Examine the mean household incomes between 1970 and 1998 and the share of aggregate household income between 1970 and 1998. Based on these figures, has inequality in the United States become greater?
  19. About how many immigrants came to the US each year from Africa during the 1990s?  What tended to be their occupations?
  20. Fertility among teenagers: What has happened to births to teenagers ages 15 to 19 may from the 1991 to the present?  What are some reasons for this trend?
  21. Who is "middle class" in the US according to the US Census Bureau?  What is the lowest and highest household income of the "middle class" according to this standard?  Is this a sensible definition? 
  22. Racial inequalities in professional and managerial jobs: How do whites compare with both blacks and Hispanics when looking at the percentages in white-collar jobs over the last decade? What are some explanations for the trends of blacks and Hispanics?
  23. Who makes the grade? Comparing 1998 to 1970, are adults (those over 25) more likely to have at least some college experience? Did the number of people who did not graduate high school increase or decrease between 1975 and 1998?
  24. Dual-earner households:  In dual-earner households where both partners work full-time about what % of wives earn more than their husbands?
  1. Increasing Diversity in the U.S. Hispanic Population

  2. There are more than 35 million people of Hispanic origin in the United States, and the 2000 Census indicates that they are more diverse than they were in 1990
  3. U.S. Hispanic Population Growing Fastest in the South

  4. One of the big demographic stories of the decade has been the dispersion of Hispanics out of highly concentrated locales to smaller cities and even rural areas in other parts of the country, especially the South. 
  5. Do Hispanics Outnumber Blacks in the U.S.?

  6. One of the headline stories of Census 2000 was the rapid growth of the Hispanic population, and the fact that Hispanics have surpassed African Americans as the largest U.S. minority group. However, while it is true that the U.S. Hispanic population is booming — the Hispanic population grew 58 percent between 1990 and 2000 — the reality is less clear-cut than these figures suggest.
  7. Migration to the South Brings U.S. Blacks Full Circle

  8. Blacks ended the 20th century by returning to the region that they spent most of the century leaving. Their return reinforces the South's distinct racial profile as a mostly white-black region.
  9. Racial Identity in the U.S. Hispanic/Latino Population

  10. “Race” and “Hispanic ethnicity” are considered distinct concepts by the federal government and were asked in separate questions on the 2000 Census form. But to most Americans, the line between the concepts is blurry at best. 
  11. The Geography of Diversity in the U.S.

  12. During the 1990s, the combined population of African Americans, Native Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics/Latinos grew at 13 times the rate of the non-Hispanic white population. Some say that this signals an impending power shift and the transition to a truly multicultural nation. But growth rates are only part of the story. 
  13. Who Marked More Than One Race in the 2000 U.S. Census?

  14. The 2000 Census was the first that allowed people to mark more than one race. The Census Bureau added this option because of increasing rates of interracial marriage and the growing population of children and minorities who identify with more than one race.
  15. The Complex Stories From Census 2000 About America's Diversity

  16. The big news from Census 2000 is out: The Hispanic population gained about 13 million people since 1990, a 58 percent increase, and is now roughly equal to the black population. But other stories about America's diversity — many so complex that the experts are still puzzling over them — are on the way.
  17. African Americans Return to the South

  18. In the first half of the 20th century, declining job prospects and a hostile racial climate compelled African Americans to exit the South. During the last decades of the century, the flow of African Americans reversed. 
  19. The Changing American Pie, 1999 and 2025

  20. Racial and ethnic diversity has always been a hallmark of American society. Immigration from different parts of the world, and the different fertility and mortality rates among recent migrants, have kept the racial and ethnic composition in flux.
  21. Race and Ethnicity in the Census: 1860 to 2000

  22. The shifting labels and definitions used in the U.S. census reflect the growing diversity of the population and changing political and social climate.
  23. U.S. Fertility Rates Higher Among Minorities

  24. In 1997 there were about 3.9 million births in the United States and a total fertility rate (TFR) of 2.0 births per woman. Minorities contributed 40 percent of all births, although they made up only 28 percent of the population.
  25. U.S. Diversity Visas Are Attracting Africa's Best and Brightest

  26. INS data show that immigration from Africa in the 1990s climbed to 33,800 annually, more than double the level of the 1980s.  Though this number still represents a small fraction of U.S. immigration, it could gradually become a substantial share. And because African immigrants are disproportionately in professional, managerial, and technical (PMT) occupations — 44 percent of African immigrants to the United States who declared an occupation have PMT qualifications, compared with 34 percent of all immigrants — their departure could further undermine social and economic conditions on the African continent.
  27. Poverty Highest Among Recent U.S. Immigrants

  28. Poverty levels are highest among the most recent immigrants, those who have come to the United States since 1990, while poverty rates among immigrants who arrived in the United States before 1970 more closely resemble those of the native-born population.
  29. Immigrant Magnets

  30. Since 1990, the number of new immigrants arriving in the United States has approached 1 million per year, but these new residents do not settle evenly across the country. During the 1990s, over 65 percent of all immigrants settled in just 10 of the nation's metropolitan areas.
  31. U.S. Women Who Earn More Money Than Their Husbands

  32. The Ozzie and Harriet model, in which the husband works and the wife stays at home, does not represent the typical family in today’s workplace. In a more accurate portrayal of American families, Harriet would enter the workforce, and might even earn more money than her husband.
  33. Who Makes the Grade? Recent Trends in U.S. Education

  34. Between 1970 and 1998, the percentage of adults in the United States who have completed at least some college has more than doubled, from 22 percent to 58 percent. Although the trend has slowed somewhat in recent years, the overall increase in educational attainment has been dramatic.
  35. Racial Inequalities in Managerial and Professional Jobs

  36. Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 sought to reduce racial inequality by eliminating discrimination in the labor market. Although few would disagree that discrimination is less of a problem today than it was in the 1960s, racial inequalities persist.
  37. Who's Entering the U.S. Labor Force?

  38. Between 1998 and 2008, about 42 million people are expected to enter the labor force —  and give it a new look.
  39. Racial and Ethnic Differences in U.S. Mortality

  40. Except at the very oldest ages, black Americans have the highest death rates of any of America's racial and ethnic groups.
  41. Racial, Ethnic Diversity in Female-Headed Households

  42. Over the past 30 years in the U.S., the percentage of female-headed households with children has increased most rapidly among blacks, but this trend appears to have slowed or even reversed in recent years. 
  43. U.S. Families in Poverty: Racial and Ethnic Differences

  44. Poverty is a problem that cuts across racial and ethnic boundaries. Almost half of all U.S. families in poverty are white, a little more than a quarter are black, slightly less than a quarter are Hispanic, and the remainder are Asian or from other groups 
  45. Has Welfare Reform Reduced Nonmarital Births?

  46. Welfare reform was enacted in August 1996 through the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) and is up for reauthorization in 2002. With that date nearing, and with a new administration, many analysts are closely scrutinizing the law's impact.
  47. Teen Birth Rate Continues to Drop:  Less Sex, More Education Behind Falling Teen Birth Rates

  48. After rising sharply between 1986 and 1991, the teenage birth rate continued its decline for the seventh year in a row in 1998.
  49. Pinpointing Poverty:  Poverty by State

  50. In November, the Census Bureau released 1997 estimates of income and poverty for every state.
  51. The Rise — and Fall? — of Single-Parent Families

  52. Over the last five years, it appears that the yearly increases in single-parent families that defined the U.S. landscape for more than 40 years have ended. The share of children born to unmarried others has stabilized, the divorce rate continues to fall, and the share of children living in single-parent families has stabilized and inched downward.
  53. New Study Claims Abortion Is Behind Decrease in Crime

  54. Stanford Law School professor John J. Donohue III and University of Chicago economist Steven D. Levitt ignited a debate last August when they released a study on the relationship between abortion and crime. Their findings suggest that legal abortions have prevented the births of many would-be criminals. The absence of these people, according to their research, is behind at least half of the dramatic drop in crime rates seen between 1991 and 1997.
  55. The Muddle About the Middle Class:  The United States has no monetary standard for defining the "middle class"

  56. Between 1970 and 1998, the percentage of adults in the United States who have completed at least some college has more than doubled, from 22 percent to 58 percent. Although the trend has slowed somewhat in recent years, the overall increase in educational attainment has been dramatic.
  57. U.S. Occupational Segregation

  58. Hispanics, African Americans, and American Indians are more likely than non-Hispanic whites or Asians to work in lower-paying, semi-skilled jobs or as service workers.
  59. The Rich, the Poor, and the In Between

  60. Has income inequality in the United States increased? In 1998, the average income of households in the bottom fifth of the income distribution was $9,223, compared with $127,529 among households in the top fifth of the income scale
This exercise is derived from the one developed by Bill Frey of the University of Michigan.  To see the original go to:

Final Question:
What is the most interesting thing that you have just learned about diversity in America?

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Immigration, Ethnicity and Race in American History

The image of the United States as a nation of immigrants hides a more complex social and political dynamic of nation-building.   This session will describe the two great waves of  immigration in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and then focus on the dual responses of Americans to these immigrants -- both nativist and pluralist.  The debate leading to the Immigration Restriction Act of 1924 was dominated by scientific-racist thinking, which had already eliminated most Asian immigration to the U.S. and now forced European immigrants to prove their "worthiness" to become Americans.  Race-thinking thus went beyohnd a simple Black-White dichotomy in this era.   With this information as a basis, the focus  then shifts to the Immigration Act of 1965, which eliminated the vestiges of scientific racism and allowed a broad immigration quota without national-origins criteria and with enlarged refugee and  family-reunification provisions.  This legislation was part of  the 1960s liberal Great Society political movement, and owes much to the Black Civil Rights movement.  The implications of this legislation for immigration patterns since 1965 will be the final area of investigation and workshop activities.


Useful Materials: Good Web Sites: Top of Page


The seminar on Religious Studies will focus on two broad questions: How religious is the USA? and How is the USA religious?  We will examine briefly: civil religion, religious tolerance, religious history, pluralism; and teaching courses on religion in America.  There will be opportunity for small group discussion; the viewing of a short video; examination of recent statistics on the extent of religious pluralism in the USA; and an exercise related to the design and assessment of course syllabi.


Useful Materials:

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Ethnicity and Immigration in Contemporary U.S. Literature

Over the past two decades, new literary voices have witnessed to the on-going waves of immigrants arriving in the United States, as well as to the increasing complexity of ethnic identifications and relations in this country. This session will offer an introduction to this multiplicity of experience as represented in fiction, poetry, and autobiography/personal essays, by Native American, Latina/o, Afro-Caribbean, and Asian American writers. A discussion of a story by a Native American woman will address concepts of insider/outsider status as reflected in fiction, and will explore methodological approaches to presenting such material in classes. A discussion of poetry and short fiction by male writers will illuminate issues surrounding diversity in U.S. culture, as well as generational conflicts among immigrants. Fiction and poetry by authors of Asian descent will allow us to explore the concept of bridging cultures, as individuals, families, and communities strive to find a balance between imitation of the “new” culture (assimilation) and preservation of the “home” culture. Works by authors from Mexico illuminate the idea of the “borderlands,” while those from Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica further complicate and enrich the cultural “mix,” as they originate in Caribbean sites already informed by hybridity and creolization.


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American Pragmatism, Pluralism, and Diversity

During the Progressive Era, American philosophers and intellectuals  such as William James, John Dewey, Randolph Bourne, and W. E. B. Dubois explored questions of diversity and pluralism and the impact on the development of American democracy.  Their thinking often reflected writers such as Walt Whitman, whose poetry was referred to by his contemporary, the first American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, as "the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom" yet contributed in the United States.  The debate between pragmatism and idealism and the struggle for democracy has resonated in American social thought to the present day, and the debates on immigration and diversity that began at the turn of the twentieth century are relevant at the turn of the twenty first.  We will look at the development of pragmatic tradition in historical, social, and cultural contexts, and at the poetry of Whitman, and examine excerpts from the writings by James, Dewey, Bourne, and Dubois.


Some materials that are available on-line: Some good links on pragmatism: Top of Page


Politics and Diversity

The political environment and political system in the United States both shape and are shaped by the diversity in American society.  In this session, we will touch on the intersection between politics and diversity as it is played out in four of the functions of a political system.  First, political socialization, much of which takes place in schools, will be addressed through issues such as school desegregation, mainstreaming of children with disabilities and the controversy around bi-lingual education.  Second, recruitment of elites, where we will look at the diversity of elected and appointed political leaders.  Third, policy making where key legislation including civil rights, voting rights, immigration and welfare reform will be discussed.  Finally, in the area of policy adjudication, we will examine a few key Supreme Court cases that deal with diversity.


Some materials that are available on-line: Top of Page

Teaching Workshops Top of Page

Maps of St. Petersburg

Some of Last Year's Conference Materials:

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