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Who We Are: A Portrait of America Based on the 1990 Census

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At every decade since 1790, Americans have painted a vivid self-portrait by numbers that reveals in stunning detail who we are as a nation. As the last decade of the twentieth century opened, the bicentennial census of 1990 captured a country radically transformed - a transformation with profound social, economic, and political consequences that we are only beginning to grasp. In Who We Are, Sam Roberts, urban affairs columnist for The New York Times, has fashioned the raw figures into a dynamic picture of the ...
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1994 Hardcover BRAND NEW w/ shelf-aged dust jacket-ships immediately 812921925. Brand New; 8.5 x 1.25 x 5.75 Inches; 306 pages.

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Overview

At every decade since 1790, Americans have painted a vivid self-portrait by numbers that reveals in stunning detail who we are as a nation. As the last decade of the twentieth century opened, the bicentennial census of 1990 captured a country radically transformed - a transformation with profound social, economic, and political consequences that we are only beginning to grasp. In Who We Are, Sam Roberts, urban affairs columnist for The New York Times, has fashioned the raw figures into a dynamic picture of the American people and a preview of where we're going as the next century begins. A compelling, expertly guided tour of the places and personalities behind the numbers, Who We Are offers a gripping view of how and where we live, our changing complexion, what we're worth, and how we're aging. The average American is a 32.7-year-old married white woman living in a mortgaged suburban three-bedroom home heated by natural gas. She's also a myth. Society and its basic building block, the family, have been dramatically redefined by delayed marriage, deferred childbirth, and divorce. One in four children born in the 1980s is being reared by a single parent; six in ten mothers with young children are in the labor force; three in a hundred households conform to the idealized family made up of a working husband, his dutiful wife, and their two children. Who We Are mines the 1990 census's rich lode of statistics to chart seismic changes in every aspect of American life. Immigration has tuned the United States into what's been hailed as the first universal nation where people are more important than place and where the burrito has become as ubiquitous as the bagel. As they age, baby boomers are fundamentally altering the demand for health care and other services. Corrosive racism has propelled the percentage of poor blacks to forty times the figure for whites; one in every four black men in their twenties is in prison or on parole. Roberts translates numbers into an insi
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This study by the urban affairs columnist of the New York Times interprets the raw data from the Census Bureau's national census of 1990. The book contains much information that will come as no surprise to most readers: the number of teenage pregnancies in all ethnic groups is increasing; more than a million Americans are in jail or on probation; the Reagan-Bush administrations benefitted the rich primarily. And there are data which are essentially meaningless, like education measured quantitatively rather than qualitatively. The statistics show the results of racism in the nation: higher infant death rates, shorter life span, 84% joblessness or poverty-level employment for high school dropouts and fewer nuclear families among America's black society. Given the figures compiled here about the country's many troubles, the book serves as a warning that changes must be made. First serial to the New York Times Magazine and Cosmopolitan; author tour. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Themes in this thought-provoking work bring together otherwise discrete census statistics not only from 1990 but from earlier years: immigration patterns (``our complexion''); demographics (``where we live, how we dream and commute''); changes in the distribution of poverty; figures showing that correctional facilities got top housing investment dollars in 1990; comparative education levels of different elements in our population; and statistics indicating that the fastest population growth in the United States is occurring among those under age five or over 60. Can census data help tell us how to plan? Roberts, a New York Times urban affairs columnist, acknowledges a surfeit of variables but implies that we can learn from interpreting available information such as the census. Here, however, he predicts only that the world (including America) will be much more complicated and diverse in the future. An interesting and browsable book.-- Suzanne W. Wood, SUNY Coll. of Technology, Alfred
Denise Perry Donavin
By analyzing 1990 census results (and comparing them with results from previous years), Roberts points out surprising changes in American society as well as troubling echoes from previous eras. He touches on the aging of the U.S. population and on racial and economic discrimination, pointing out that "never before, despite previous waves of immigration, has the nation been so diverse. Nor have contrasts . . . been so stark." His informative summary of the census also describes how it was compiled.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812921922
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/1/1994
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240

Meet the Author

Sam Roberts

Sam Roberts, Urban Affairs Correspondent of the New York Times, has written for the Times for more than two decades. Before joining the Times, he was a reporter and city editor at the Daily News. His writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the New Republic, and New York Magazine. Author and co-author of several books, he lives in New York with his wife.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
I Who We Are 3
II Why We Count 15
III How We Live 31
IV Our Changing Complexion 65
V Our National Obsession 97
VI Where We Live 119
VII Where We Dream 149
VIII How We Commute 167
IX What We're Worth 173
X How the Other Half Lives 203
XI Are We Smarter? 229
XII How We're Aging 245
XIII Where We're Going 261
Appendices 277
Index 305
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