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  April 5, 2004

Panel Says Population Trends
Affect Health, Education

Birthrates, immigration trends, and the aging of the baby-boomer population are changing the racial and ethnic composition of the United States, and these changes, in turn, will affect health care policies and education in the future, said experts during a panel discussion March 25 in the Rome Ballroom.

Image: Harold Hodgkinson

Harold Hodgkinson, director of the Center for Demograpic Policy at the Institute for Education Leadership, says 40 million Americans a year move from one place to another, affecting public policy decisions. He spoke during a March 25 panel on "The Browning of America."

Photo by Dollie Harvey

The event, sponsored by the Division of Multicultural and International Affairs, was called "The Browning of America."

Forty million Americans move every year from one place to another, said Harold Hodgkinson, director of the Center for Demographic Policy at the Institute for Educational Leadership and one of the world's leading demographers. "Ten million move from one state to another, and 30 million move within the state," he said.

That can be problematic, Hodgkinson said: "Many teachers have 22 students in the fall and 22 the following spring, but 20 out of the 22 are different students."

Transience is one of the great enemies of stability, and is related to crime in a direct way, he said: "The higher the transience rate, almost without exception, the higher the crime rate."

Race and ethnicity are changing rapidly, he said. Sixty out of 1,000 white women of childbearing age will have a child in any given year; 63 black women out of 1,000 will have a child; and 84 out of 1,000 Hispanic women will give birth.

There are also regional variables. "In Utah, there are 93 births per 1,000; Maine, New Hampshire, or Vermont give you 50 each. In New England, you're not having enough children to maintain current population size," he said.

Hodgkinson said that in the future, Hispanics and Asians will account for 61 percent of population growth in the U.S. "California will add 12 million Hispanics and six million Asians by 2025, while Texas and Florida will add 8 million more Hispanics. Diversity will not be equally distributed across the country," adding that the U.S. is heading toward a population that is "increasingly Hispanic and increasingly poor."

Pat Baker, executive director and CEO of the Connecticut Health Foundation, said "the number one issue in Connecticut" is the disparity of health outcomes between the majority and the minority populations. "Reducing those disparities is one of our top priorities," she said.

The median age of death for white women in Connecticut is 79; for African American women, 66; and for Latinos, 59, Baker said. "In 1999, the state health department issued a multicultural health report exam and found that African Americans fared worse on every indicator, including birth outcomes and infectious disease." She said that in Hartford, 28 percent of residents live below the poverty level.

Forty-six percent of people in Hartford speak a language other than English, and that has huge implications for health care, Baker said. During focus groups conducted about health care by the Connecticut Health Foundation, language comes up as a health care problem. "People say, 'I don't know what my provider is saying. I'm tired of having my 12-year-old interpret,'" she said.

Racial and ethnic minorities tend to receive lower quality health care than non-minorities, even when access-related factors such as insurance are considered, Baker said, citing a study conducted by the Institute of Medicine's Report on Unequal Treatment.

For example, white patients are offered more pain medication than are blacks or Latinos in Emergency Room care, she said.

The Institute of Medicine has strongly recommended increasing cross-cultural education in the training of current and future health professionals, Baker said.

Christopher Brown, executive director of the United Negro College Fund's Patterson Research Institute, said "the black middle class is growing, while the black underclass is remaining constant.

"The last decade of data shows the upper group of blacks making great strides in their abilities to enroll in higher education and to fare well in degree attainment," he said. "Such progress was likely a function of increased access to educational settings, which has implications for health care."

Brown said that while "there is browning of America, it is only certain parts of America. If you think you are going to get UConn to look like Cal State Northridge or Miami Dade Community College, you're mistaken. There aren't enough brown people to go around to make our institutions look exactly the same," he said.

"As Americans look at the notion of progress, there's national belief that higher education is for everyone," he added. "That may not be true. It ought to be available to everyone, but it may not be for everyone."