Kansas City Star: New population study redefines ‘heartland’
... Social changes over the last decade — especially the increase in racial and ethnic minorities — are scrambling regional stereotypes and dramatically altering the traditional portrait of America.
“Our metropolitan areas are on the front lines of demographic transformation,” said Bruce Katz, director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings. “Every trend that is affecting the nation — growth, diversity, aging, education disparities, income inequities — is affecting our major metropolitan areas first at a speed, scale and complexity that are truly historic.”
The “New Heartland” is one of seven divisions that Brookings developed in its study, “State of Metropolitan America,” to reflect the changing economic, demographic and social climate since 2000.
The Kansas City area is one of 19 “fast-growing, highly educated locales” in this redefined heartland, with diversity levels below the national average.
“We are right there in the middle of these trends, not experiencing their extremes,” said Frank Lenk, director of research at the Mid-America Regional Council in Kansas City. “As a result, the negative changes, like more income inequality, didn’t hit us here.”
Indeed, wages for middle-class workers in the Kansas City area actually went up slightly as of 2008, compared with the national average, according to Brookings. The median income was higher, too. The percentage of children in poverty locally also was lower than it was nationally.
The region had one of the highest percentages of commuters who drive alone. It also had some the highest numbers of commuters who switched to public transit since 2000.
The percentage of the population older than 25 with college degrees ranks in the top third of the leading metro areas. But it hugs the bottom as far as 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in higher education. ...