By: Jazlyn Moock
When imagining the average American family, what do you picture? Most likely, the answer to these questions will be dictated from your own family or perhaps from the stereotypical representations of the “perfect” American exposed to us thousands of times in television and movies. Without a doubt, the country has shifted quite a lot since the 1950’s conventional, suburban family of the breadwinner husband, diligent mother and their three blond bushels of joy straight out of the Brady Bunch. Though, these societal conceptions have not disappeared by any means and still hold a great bearing on the people’s beliefs of what defines American values and culture. However, the demographics of America are rapidly changing, and the country as we know it today will not look the same in 30 years, or even 20. The “typical family” may even be completely unrecognizable to that of the past century’s social standards and normalized characteristics. Whether these changes will have a positive or negative effect on the overall success of the nation is unknown, yet they will surely be monumental. Here is the future of America.
By the year 2045, the American population will become majority minority, which means that white Americans will no longer comprise the majority of the U.S. population. For some perspective, the nation was 85 percent white in 1960, is currently 60 percent white, and will be 43 percent white in 2060. The more time that progresses with the increased occurrence of interracial relationships, the closer on the horizon a fully diverse America will become. Ever since interracial marriages were legalized 53 years ago, their numbers have skyrocketed and now make up 17 percent of new marriages in the United States. This future of a multi-racial nation is definite and defining one of the most prominent demographic shifts the U.S. has seen, as the rate is growing three times as fast as the population as a whole. National Geographic attempted to imagine this new racial norm back in 2014, creating a gallery of what the average 2050 American will look like from photographs of mixed-race Americans today. These images of an American melting pot of identities and culture have provided comfort and hope for some, potentially representing a future where race is redefined and society is more tolerant. However, others highly doubt the possibility of a freed, revolutionized country provoked from demographic changes alone. Due to the United State’s deep rooted racial injustice and systematically embedded inequality, the peace and acceptance dreamed of in a mixed America can seem naive in the eyes of those who endure such struggles everyday. With 55 percent of U.S. adults with mixed-racial background saying they have been subjected to racial slurs, the treatment of diverse citizens 30 years from now may not have this drastic improvement. Although the average American will be mixed, they could still face the same pressure to identify with one group or the other, feel labeled, or have their sense of identity dismissed altogether like they do currently. By the same logic, women have consistently comprised of 50 percent of the population but have still been oppressed and denied rights for generations regardless of their statistical makeup; so, perhaps an ethnically-ambiguous baby paradise might not spark the long-term solution to discrimination and a lack of acceptance rampant in the nation. The country’s pessimism about the imminent diverse future is also not promising for the reality of an evolved society, as 46 percent of white Americans report that they fear a majority non-white population would “weaken U.S. culture and values.” Only 30 percent of all Americans have stated they believe it would strengthen the country’s culture in the Pew Research Center study. The people were also split on the question of racial conflict, with roughly half of Americans claiming that a majority non-white population would lead to more racial and ethnic turmoil. Nonetheless, more conversations–and serious contemplation of the country’s divisions and tensions–will have to be had as the percentage of minorities soar in the coming decades.
There have also been significant changes displayed in Americans’ religious beliefs, which are projected to only amplify with time. However, instead of a transition to one religion over another–like the rest of the world is experiencing with the increased popularity of Islam over Christianity–Americans are uniquely transitioning to no religion. By 2050, 1 in 4 Americans will be unaffiliated with religion. While the reasons for this statistic vary from each individual, the Pew Research Center discovered certain commonalities between the responses of those who identify with atheism or agnosticism. A vast majority of religiously unaffiliated Americans state their reason for refraining from practicing an organized religion is that they either question religious teachings or oppose the positions taken by churches on social and political issues. Similarly, 30 percent were turned off from their experience of negative religious teachings surrounding the LGBTQ+ community specifically. The clergy sexual-abuse scandal and other personal traumatic events regarding their childhood religion were also fairly common responses, consisting of roughly 20 percent of participants for each. Another potential answer for the increase in agnostic Americans could be differing family dynamics, since research has pointed to divorce and familial instability as a factor into the transmission of religious identity. With divorce rates edging toward the 50 percent mark in 2020, this could very well have influenced the rising dissociation of Americans’ religion immersed in during childhood. Interestingly, there is a practice that has seemed to replace organized religion: spirituality. While involvement in religion may be decreasing among Americans, a “deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being” as well as a “deep sense of wonder about the universe” has risen. Especially among American youth, the broad term “spirituality” has been the preferred identification to that of “religious,” which aligns with the millennial generation’s tendency to challenge the status quo, along with their unequivocal “do it yourself” attitude.
The recorded number of Americans who identify as LGBTQ+ will also be more prominent in the future, as they are already proving to construct a larger percentage of the younger generations. A survey conducted by GLAAD stated that 20 percent of millennials identify as LGBTQ+, a notable increase from 12 percent of Generation X, and 7 percent of baby boomers. The rise from 7 percent to 20 percent is most likely not due to the fact that more people are lgbtq; instead, the degree of acceptance, representation, and support of the community has, and will continue to, provoke mass amounts of closeted Americans to express their preffered sexual orientation or gender-identity. The public’s opinions and willingness to accept this fate of the country are complex, however. While, the percentage of allies–or supporters of the LGBTQ+ community and their equal rights–are showing an upward trend consisting of 63 percent of youth, people ages 18-24 still are increasingly uncomfortable in “personal scenarios” with LGBTQ+ people, such as learning that a family member is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Undoubtedly, if Americans remain in this state of limbo between acceptance and judgement, the next few decades and beyond will be a long and rocky road as the nation’s youth age.
Whether the nation is apprehensive or “uncomfortable” with the changing demographics, they will arrive regardless. Bitter fights over race, religion, or sexual orientation will not reduce the amount of oppressed minorities or alter the needs of the country’s diverse citizens. The United States is a country founded by the people, protected by the people, and for the people. If the people happen to contrast those from decades ago, or will happen to contrast those a few decades from now, they are still Americans; they are still of equal value. The inhabitants may look, believe, and love differently, yet this allows for a reconsideration of what it means to be American; it allows for the realization that values of freedom, equity, and progress are what make or break us. So, when imagining the average American family now, what do you picture?