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Book Talk Review: Diversity Explosion with William Frey

Colorful brush strokes forming a map of the United States with the words "Diversity Explosion How New Racial Demographics are Remaking America"

Any forward thinker is bound to ask the question – what will the world be like in ten years? Twenty? What about fifty years? In his new book, Diversity Explosion (Brookings Institution Press, 2014), demographer and senior Brookings Institution fellow William Frey attempts to answer these questions with regard to America’s rapidly changing demographics.

On June 17th, Frey gave a book talk at the Brooklyn Historical Society. In it, he discussed his predictions for the future population profile of the United States, using graphs pulled from his book to illustrate his findings.

The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that in 2044, the population of non-whites will surpass that of whites for the first time since the census has been recorded. Much of the growth will come from new immigrant populations, as well as the higher fertility rate of these new Americans in comparison to the white population. Because of the low fertility and rapid aging of whites, Frey believes America is moving towards a “no racial-majority nation.”  This demographic shift is a welcome one, as it provides new energy and innovation to the American labor force while shoring up the historical diversity of the nation.

Frey suggested the implication of this change is twofold. Younger generations will be more racially diverse, and the increased racial diversity will lead to what he calls a “Diversity Dispersal”: a movement of non-whites away from urban “melting pot” concentrations and  towards a more even ethnic and racial composition throughout the country. As an example, Frey cited the recent reversal of the Great Migration trend as many African Americans return to the non-urban south. And while Frey acknowledged that racial desegregation is far from accomplished in the United States (the average white resident lives in an area that is 77% white), more and more non-whites are moving to areas of the country that traditionally have been majority white.

In terms of marriage, the 2010 census revealed that 15% of all marriages were interracial, and that one out of every 8 marriages involving African Americans is a white/black marriage. Even so, Frey said, this does not suggest we are “moving towards a ‘post-racial’ America,” only that younger generations may be more “tolerant” than previous generations as signified by an increase in interracial unions.

Because the population of non-whites in America is increasing, Frey predicts that they will have more political clout than ever before. He believes a consequence of this growth and dispersal across the country will increase the strength of the Democratic Party as he finds that non-whites tend to vote Democrat. Whether or not this is true will likely have more to do with political representation than demography, but growing diversity does suggest that race-based social and economic inequities are increasingly unsustainable.

Frey closed his talk by offering solutions for ending racial disparities in the long term. He calls for community support for education and more opportunities for all Americans to enter the middle class. He also wants future generations to close the political and cultural generational gap – for this he stressed the importance of the Internet in globalizing and making accessible communication between people of different social, ethnic, racial, and economic backgrounds. Frey remains hopeful about America’s future and believes increased diversity can only strengthen the republic. For more information on William Frey and Diversity Explosion, visit:

— Zack Wilks