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Who We Are Now: The Changing Face of America in the 21st Century

Overview

A revealing view of America and its citizens at the dawn of a new century, by the author of the New York Times Notable Book Who We Are

For more than two centuries, America has taken stock every decade, producing a statistical self-portrait of our population. In Who We Are Now, Sam Roberts identifies and illuminates the trends and social shifts changing the face of America today.

America is in the midst of a fundamental transformation. The ...

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Who We Are Now: The Changing Face of America in the 21st Century

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Overview

A revealing view of America and its citizens at the dawn of a new century, by the author of the New York Times Notable Book Who We Are

For more than two centuries, America has taken stock every decade, producing a statistical self-portrait of our population. In Who We Are Now, Sam Roberts identifies and illuminates the trends and social shifts changing the face of America today.

America is in the midst of a fundamental transformation. The nation's complexion changed significantly over the twentieth century, creating more varied and intermingled identities, and with the baby boomers nearing retirement and their children entering college, the graying of America has been balanced, precariously, by the youth culture. And in the wake of welfare reform in the 1990s, the fate of the working poor has become all the more tenuous. Roberts masterfully weaves stories of individuals from all corners of the country alongside the data from the latest U.S. census, creating a compelling guided tour of the places, personalities, and politics that will shape America as the new century stretches before us.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A thorough, lively analysis. With wit—and a wary eye for the manipulative uses to which statistics are put in politics and the marketplace—[Roberts] illuminates the forces driving the nation’s social-policy debates.” —The New York Times
David J. Garrow
The 2000 United States Census was "a snapshot of a moving target," Sam Roberts reports in this fascinatingly fact-filled picture of today's America.
— The New York Times
Library Journal
It's too bad that library strictures preclude placing this fine book in the Government Documents section along with the U.S. Census or where the census is made electronically available. Hopefully, social scientists and general readers interested in an excellent overview of the trends reflected in the most recent census (2000) will find their way to wherever this book is actually placed. Much as he did in his 1994 Who We Are: A Portrait of America, New York Times reporter Roberts puts the numbers into context; while there are appendixes and graphs, it is the author's readable style and the connections he makes between everyday life and public policy that make this a winning book. Aptly titled chapters like "Why We Count," "How We're Aging," "Where We've Moved," and "Are We Smarter?" help organize the areas of focus. Comparison with previous trends and the use of relevant news stories further enhance our understanding. Sensibly, Roberts acknowledges inconsistencies in reporting and other human foibles, as well as the impossibility of accurately predicting what lies ahead for the "average American." Recommended for all libraries.-Ellen D. Gilbert, Princeton, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A New York Times editor examines the 2000 US Census (along with much other data) and reports that we are in some ways the same as we always were-but very different, too. Employing techniques similar to those he used in Who We Are: A Portrait of America Based on the 1990 Census (1994), Roberts stitches patches of statistical information together with a slender, though not always silken, narrative. He begins with this: the average American is a 35-year-old woman living in her own home in the metro West or South. In 1900, this statistical citizen was a 26-year-old man renting property in rural America. Roberts explains the importance of demographics, then devotes himself to such subjects as households, aging, transience, race, income, and education. (Intriguingly, there's little on religion.) He ends with a view of how the US fits statistically into today's world. Along the way, some data surprise: Only 52% of households contain a married couple. Two-thirds of black children are born out of wedlock. New York City hosts 26,402 people per square mile. One out of 32 adults is or has been in prison. Only 20% of college students fit what the author calls the "Joe College" model: a resident student in a four-year program. Other findings confirm common observation. Florida is the "oldest" state; our population is shifting to the Southwest; women and blacks earn less than white men in similar occupations. Some of the findings also have profound social implications. More than 10% of black men in their late 20s are in prison. Ballooning older generations challenge the capacity of the younger to support them. Meantime, the text and numerous charts are sometimes dense with numbers and allusions; oneparagraph features Ehrenreich, Jefferson, Arnold, Fussell, Marx, Baritz, and Flaubert. To his credit, Roberts strives to maintain political neutrality, though he characterizes mandatory sentencing laws as "Draconian."Always useful, often entertaining, rarely dull. (34 b&w illustrations)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805070804
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/1/2004
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,017,145
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Sam Roberts has been a reporter, columnist, and editor at The New York Times since 1983 and is also the host of New York Close-Up, a nightly television interview program on the cable news station New York 1. He is the author of Who We Are: A Portrait of America based on the latest U.S. Census, published in 1994, and The Brother: The Untold Story of the Rosenberg Case. He lives in Manhattan.

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Table of Contents

1 Who we are now 1
2 Why we count 15
3 How we live 23
4 How we're aging 48
5 Where we've moved 68
6 Where we dream 98
7 Our changing complexion 111
8 How we live in black and white 142
9 What we're worth 168
10 Are we smarter? 193
11 Who in the world we are 202
12 Where we're going 221
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