A Nation in Full
Within days, America will pass the 300 million mark in population. Behind the numbers, the changes are dramatic. A look at the biggest:
But the influx has brought accompanying tensions. St. Patrick's Church in Fort Wayne, the area's only church with a full Spanish service, has seen its congregation grow from a couple of hundred to standing room only on Sundays, with more than 900 people attending. When the church moved to a heavily Hispanic neighborhood, many white members left. "It was a big change, and a lot of people were really hurt," says Blanca Navarro, who works at the church. According to a survey done for Republican Rep. Mark Souder, who represents Fort Wayne and Goshen, 76 percent of his district's residents think there should be a fence along the Mexican border. "We have Ku Klux Klan here," says Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman. "So of course everyone isn't accepting.... It's getting more integrated, but it hasn't been the smoothest transition."
THE GRAYING OF AMERICA
WILMINGTON, N.C.-It's a cliché, elderly parents telling their kids how they "don't want to be a burden" to them. Right out of Guilt Trip 101. Well, if the number crunchers are right, all those aging baby boomers-the first ones turned 60 this year-probably shouldn't waste their breath. Economist Laurence Kotlikoff of Boston University is typical. He describes the onslaught of 77 million aging boomers as a "generational storm" that will pose "a crushing burden for the country."
The United States is growing dramatically older. Back in 1900, the median age in the United States was 22.9 years. But with people having fewer babies, that number started to climb. Lower fertility rates mean older populations. The baby boom caused a brief pause in this movement during the 1950s and 1960s, but the aging trend has since resumed. The median age is up to 36.5 and is expected to rise to 39 by 2030 before leveling off. Or, to put it another way, America in 2030 will look like Florida does today. Some 12.4 percent of Americans are 65 or older today-up from 9.9 percent in 1970-but that number will rise to 19.6 percent of Americans in 2030.
But at the local level, the perspective's a little different. Seniors a burden? That sure isn't how his gray-haired residents look to Mayor Bill Saffo of Wilmington. "They're a real asset to us," he says. "The seniors retiring here are active in our community. They're involved in nonprofits, but they are also working part time or creating businesses."
Wilmington, on the Cape Fear coast, has become a magnet for retirees, thanks to its great beaches, low cost of living, and abundant golf courses. During the 1990s, a decade when the city grew 35 percent, Wilmington saw its over-65 population grow 46 percent, the eighth-fastest rate for any metro area with a population under 1 million residents, according to research by demographer William Frey. Wilmington also saw its pre-elderly population-ages 55 to 64-jump 52 percent, the seventh-fastest rate for any city in America. And there are few signs the river of older residents has abated.
Wilmington also has plenty of what some urban experts call "street corner strange," a quirky, artsy atmosphere fed by the presence of the University of North Carolina-Wilmington and its role as a frequent Hollywood film location. On a recent rainy morning, not far from Saffo's office, Wilmington's main drag was narrowed by the bulky presence of large vans used in filming TV's One Tree Hill.