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A Critical Opportunity to Support Change

Nationally, between 2000 and 2010, all races except White showed double-digit increases in population; the Hispanic population grew at an increase of 45%.[1] This growth will continue and by 2042, it is projected the population of people of color will surpass that of the white, non-Hispanic population.[2] In addition, 80% of seniors are Caucasian and only in a few counties are most seniors of color. But the majority of babies born in the last two years were nonwhite - young Americans are increasingly people of color.[3]

This is our future; however, equal access and opportunity for those who are quickly becoming the majority of the population is still greatly influenced by our past. Our cities’ neighborhoods are still defined by lines of segregation.[4] According to the most recent data on infant mortality,[5] high school attainment,[6] unemployment,[7] household income,[8] and life expectancy,[9] people of color face consistent and significant disparities compared to Caucasians.

Of the ten largest counties in Michigan, Ottawa County is the only county to experience a double-digit increase in its population growth rate since 2000.[10] Between 2000 and 2010, the number of African Americans in Ottawa County more than doubled, and the Native American, Asian, and Hispanic populations all increased by 35% respectively.[10] Ottawa County is 90% Caucasian;[10] however, the central city, Holland, is now 30% people of color. In addition, the first ring suburb has experienced a 26% increase in people of color over the last ten years. Residents are finding themselves living shoulder-to-shoulder with people from cultures with which they have little experience or understanding.

While our region’s rapid growth brings promise for the area, people of color continue to experience a high level of alienation. In the state ranked as having the most racially segregated neighborhoods and schools,[11] people of color continue to routinely encounter biases and barriers in housing, employment, the retail market, and social settings. An intentional approach to fostering inclusion is critical in furthering the development and sustainability of our region’s future.

[1] U.S. Census Bureau
[2] ColorLines, “Check the Color Line: 2009 Income Report”

[3] PolicyLink, “A New Generation Gap?”
[4] New York Times, “Mapping America: Every City, Every Block”

[5] US National Center for Health Statistics, “Recent Trends in Infant Mortality in the US”

[6] The Alliance for Excellent Education “Understanding Graduation Rates in the US”

[7] Dept of Labor, “Employment status of the civilian population by race, sex, and age”

[8] U.S. Census Bureau, “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the US”

[9] CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics System

[10] Ottawa Co Planning and Performance Improvement Dept, “2010 Census Overview”

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