I've often noted that the changing geographic distribution of immigrants has a lot to do with the "I want my country back!" sentiment that has become so visible in recent months. At one time, if you lived in a suburb or a small town, you were unlikely to encounter people speaking a language other than English very often, if at all. Now that people all over the country see immigrants in their communities, many feel as though something has been taken from them.
But William Frey of the Brookings Institution (via Andrew Sullivan) points us to a fascinating piece of data that brings more depth to this picture. The ferment in Arizona, he explains, might have something to do with the fact that "the state’s swift Hispanic growth has been concentrated in young adults and children, creating a 'cultural generation gap' with largely white baby boomers and older populations, the same demographic that predominates in the recent Tea Party protests."
Arizona has the largest gap of any state between the percentage of seniors who are white (83 percent) and the percentage of those under 18 who are white (43 percent) -- a 40 percent gap. The national gap is 25 percent.
Frey also cautions us against assuming that baby boomers will be more friendly toward immigration. "The appeal of anti-immigrant, anti-Latino messages among boomers and seniors may seem surprising especially because the former are so closely associated with 1960s era liberalism and Civil Rights. Yet this stereotype hardly applies to all boomers and recent presidential elections have shown them to be either politically split or, in the case of white boomer men, veering toward the right."
Indeed. For every hippie grooving to Jefferson Airplane in 1969, there was a guy with a brush cut thinking about how much he'd like to punch a hippie. Your uncle who still talks about how he almost went to Woodstock may be a baby boomer, but so is Dick Cheney.
-- Paul Waldman
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