Modern Urban Issues

Regents Prep: U.S. History: Human Systems & Society: Modern Urban Issues

Immigration and Migration

Before 1880, most immigrants to the United States came from either the United Kingdom or Germany. They were usually middle-class Protestants (except for the Irish), looking for land on which to settle, and could speak some English. During thisClick To Download period, there were no laws limiting the number of immigrants who could enter the country.

After 1880, things changed. Railroads began to crisscross the country. New railroad construction brought new job opportunities and new immigrant groups seeking better jobs, a higher standard of living, or political and religious freedom.. This second wave of immigrants came mostly from Poland, Italy, or Russia, and were more likely to be Catholic or Jewish than Protestants. They were poor, and spoke little English.

According to Census 2000, the majority of modern immigrants were from Latin America, Asia and/or Europe. The fewest immigrants came from Oceania, Africa, and other areas of North America. Today, there are still legal limitations on immigration into the United States.


Population Trends

According to the 2000 census, the median (middle/center) age of Americans was 35. Almost three quarters are 18 or older, with the largest group between 35 and 44 years old. Further, women outnumber men in the general population, 51 to 49 percent. (Census map courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau).

The greatest population density lies on the East Coast between Boston and Washington D.C., with D.C. (at 9316 persons per square mile), New Jersey, and Rhode Island having the greatest number of person per square mile. The most sparsely populated states are Wyoming, Montana and Alaska (having only 1.1 persons per square mile). New York State, with 19,000,000 residents, had a population density of 402 per square mile.


Current Issues

Shifting Populations

One major concern for researchers is the rapidly growing world population. In developed nations, the average birthrate is between 1 and 2 children per woman. That means countries like Spain and the Czech Republic are experiencing a shrinkingClick To Download population. In under-developed nations, the birthrate is about 4 children per female. In some Africa nations, women are bearing 7 children, on average. The birthrate in the United States is below the rate of replacement, meaning more people are dying than being born to replace them.

Urban Issues

As you could expect, urban and rural populations often face different kinds of problems. Cities (2,500 or more residents) must deal with congested traffic, for example, or high populations in need of housing and adequate food supplies. Along with high population comes overcrowding, as the limited space is rapidly used up. Overcrowding, crime and waste disposal are three of the major concerns in urban areas today. Data shows that the these three serious issues often go hand-in-hand with high population density.

The Baby Boomers

Economic prosperity followed the end of World War Two. Lots of jobs meant lots of money and people felt comfortable having large families. The sharp increase in the number of children born between 1946 and 1964 created a “baby boom”. That means anyone (in the year 2002) between the age 38 and 56 falls into the “Baby Boomer” category. About 77,000,000 Americans fall into the “Baby Boomer” category.

The Graying of America

At this time, more than 12% of all Americans are over age 65. Because of the large “Baby Boomer” population group, about 35% of Americans will be eligible for retirement (or already are retired) in the next twenty years. To put that into a different perspective, that translates to about 100,000,000 people.

The number of retired or “ready-to-retire” Americans is significantly higher than the number of Click To DownloadAmericans who will be left in the workplace. Because retirees will outnumber workers within the next two decades, it has been said that without significant planning, Americas elderly are in danger of losing Social Security benefits in the next twenty years. The federal government has discussed several reform options for Social Security and Medicare funding, but political rivalry has prevented any agreements.

Water & Air Pollution

In the U.S., government groups such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and State Departments of Environmental Conservation have worked with independent watchdog groups like Greenpeace, Earth First, The Audubon Society and the Sierra Club over the best method of protection for both the environment and human health.

Many big businesses have been slow to adopt new environmental regulations because they of concerns it will be too expensive to make the necessary changes. In several cases, government regulation and intervention has been necessary to compel a company to clean up toxic or hazardous waste sites. In fact, since 1980, the EPA has overseen the cleanup of over 1,300 hazardous sites across the country.