Research from 2018 demographers’ conference: Migration, self-identity, marriage and other key findings
Migration, racial or ethnic self-identity, and marriage were among the many topics explored at the Population Association of America’s annual meeting in Denver last month. The meeting, the largest demography conference in the United States, provided a forum for researchers to present their work at more than 250 sessions.
What follows is a brief synopsis of some of the conference’s research highlights. As is true of many conferences, the work presented often is preliminary and may be revised later. The full conference program can be found here.
Opinions about whether the United States has a responsibility to accept refugees – which were already deeply polarized – have grown even more so, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in April and May. The survey comes as the nation is likely to admit its smallest number of refugees in decades.
Roughly half of Americans (51%) say the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees into the country, while 43% say it does not, the national survey found. That is changed only slightly from February of last year.
However, Republicans have become less likely to say the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees. Today, about a quarter of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (26%) say the nation has a responsibility to accept refugees into the country, down from 35% in February 2017, a few weeks after President Donald Trump took office.
Opinion among Democrats and Democratic leaners has changed little over this period: Currently, 74% say the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees, about three times the share of Republicans saying this.
It’s sometimes said that the Democratic Party is less comfortable with religion than the GOP. And it is true that, on the whole, Democrats are less religious than Republicans. But this glosses over profound racial and ethnic differences within the Democratic Party: While white Democrats are less likely to be religious than Republicans, nonwhite Democrats – who mostly identify as black or Hispanic – more closely resemble Republicans overall on a host of religious measures.
For example, among Democrats and those who lean toward the Democratic Party, 95% of all nonwhites (which includes 99% of blacks) say they believe in God or a higher power, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. This is exactly the same level of belief seen among Republicans and Republican leaners. By contrast, 78% of white Democrats believe in God or a higher power. And the share of white Democrats who say they do not believe in God or any higher power (21%) is quadruple the level seen among nonwhite Democrats (5%), as well as among both white and nonwhite Republicans (5% each).
There is a similar pattern when it comes to belief in God as described in the Bible. Nonwhite Democrats are roughly twice as likely as white Democrats to say they believe in the biblical God (61% vs. 32%), and are only a little less likely than Republicans (70%) to say this. In addition, nonwhite Democrats are almost twice as likely as white Democrats to say they believe that God or another higher power is all-knowing, all-loving and all-powerful (64% vs. 35%). Among all Republicans, 67% say they believe this.
Major demographic shifts are reshaping the United States. The country is growing in population while becoming older and more racially and ethnically diverse. To some extent, these demographic trends are playing out differently in America’s urban, suburban and rural communities.
These three community types are also on different paths politically. Rural counties have moved in a Republican direction and urban areas have become even more Democratic over the past two decades; the suburbs remain about evenly divided between the two parties.
Despite these demographic and political differences, people across community types have much in common. For example, they are about equally likely to say they are attached to their communities, and they share some of the same concerns about issues in their areas.
Here are some key findings from a new Pew Research Center report about the attitudes and experiences of urban, suburban and rural Americans:
1Suburbs are growing faster than urban and rural areas. Since 2000, suburban counties saw a 16% increase in population, compared with increases of 13% and 3%, respectively, in urban and rural counties. The overall share of U.S. residents who live in suburban counties has also risen during this period, while holding steady in urban counties and declining in rural ones.
The growth in suburban areas since 2000 is driven by several factors. More than 6 million Americans who used to live in urban and rural counties have migrated to the suburbs, and more than 5 million international immigrants have settled there as well. While urban counties have also had an influx of international immigrants since 2000 (7 million), they have lost 5 million residents to suburban and rural areas. In contrast, in rural counties, the number that moved out to other types of communities since 2000 modestly exceeded the number that moved in. All county types saw more births than deaths during this time period.
2Suburbs are aging more rapidly than urban and rural areas. Nationally and in each community type, the 65-and-older population has grown more sharply since 2000 than any other age group. But while older adults are a higher share of the population in rural areas, suburban counties have seen the largest increase. The 65-and-older population has grown 39% in the suburbs since 2000, compared with 26% in urban and 22% in rural counties.
Large demographic shifts are reshaping America. In urban counties, nonwhites now make up a clear majority of the population, while solid majorities in suburban and rural areas are white. Urban and suburban counties are gaining population due to an influx of immigrants in both types of counties, as well as domestic migration into suburban areas. Rural counties, however, have made only minimal population gains since 2000 as more people have left for urban or suburban areas than have moved in. And while the population is graying in all three types of communities, this is happening more rapidly in the suburbs than in urban and rural counties.
These trends are making urban, suburban and rural counties more distinct from one another. This may help explain why a new Pew Research Center survey finds most urban and rural residents feel misunderstood by those who live in other types of communities.
Nearly 56% of the U.S. voting-age population cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election, representing a slight uptick compared with 2012 but less than in the record year of 2008. While most Americans – 70% in a recent Pew Research Center survey – say high turnout in presidential elections is very important, what constitutes “high turnout” depends very much on which country you’re looking at and which measuring stick you use.
Americans say their nation’s colleges and universities compare relatively well with those in other developed countries – but the public offers more negative assessments of the state of U.S. public schools.
About half of U.S. adults say the country’s colleges and universities are either the “best in the world” (16%) or “above average” (35%) compared with those in other developed nations, according to a recent Pew Research Center report. By comparison, just 18% say U.S. public schools rank above average or higher internationally, while 41% of Americans say public schools are below average (37% rate them as average).
On many measures of how the United States fares relative to other countries, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to view the nation as performing better. This extends to views of the country’s public schools.
Republicans and Democrats give their own parties only mixed ratings for how well they do in standing up for some traditional party positions, according to a national survey conducted by Pew Research Center earlier this month.
Fewer than half (45%) of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say the Democratic Party does an excellent or good job in standing up for such traditional party positions as “protecting the interests of minorities, helping the poor and needy and representing working people.” Slightly more (52%) say the party does only a fair or poor job in advocating these positions.
Similarly, 43% of Republicans and Republican leaners say their party does an excellent or good job in standing up for traditional GOP positions such as “reducing the size of government, cutting taxes and promoting conservative social values,” while 55% say the party does only a fair or poor job.
Most Americans say climate change affects their local community, including two-thirds living near coast
Roughly six-in-ten Americans (59%) say climate change is currently affecting their local community either a great deal or some, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
Some 31% of Americans say the effects of climate change are affecting them personally, while 28% say climate change is affecting their local community but its effects are not impacting them in a personal way.
As is the case on many climate change questions, perceptions of whether and how much climate change is affecting local communities are closely tied with political party affiliation. About three-quarters of Democrats (76%) say climate change is affecting their local community at least some, while roughly a third of Republicans say this (35%).
Muslims around the world are set to mark Ramadan, a holy month when many fast from sunrise to sunset in order to focus on their spiritual life and get closer to God. In the United States, the vast majority of Muslims celebrate Ramadan, with eight-in-ten saying they fast during the holiday.
In fact, more Muslim adults say they fast during Ramadan than say they pray five times a day (42%) or attend mosque weekly (43%), according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey of U.S. Muslims. And far more women fast during Ramadan (82%) than wear the head cover, or hijab, at least most of the time (43%).