Nontraditional law students

6 Megatrends for 2014

The partisan divide is shifting, and workers are getting a smaller piece of the economic pie.

Nontraditional law students

No single racial or ethnic group will make up the majority of the U.S. population in 2043.

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Now that the year, and the decade, is half over, it's time to see how things are shaping up in America today. Here are six trends, large and small, that are influencing our lives in 2014 and beyond.

1. Minorities are becoming the new majority. Hispanics make up 17 percent of the population and blacks comprise 13 percent. According to the Pew Research Center, Hispanics represent over 20 percent of children entering kindergarten in 17 states including Massachusetts and California, illustrating how the Hispanic population is growing ever more significant. Non-Hispanic whites currently comprise 63 percent of the population, but the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that even with declining birth rates for Hispanics and immigrants in recent years, by 2043 no racial or ethnic group will account for more than half the total U.S. population. By 2060, minorities (including those of two or more races, currently 2.4 percent of the population) will make up 57 percent of the great American melting pot.

2. Making money in the new economy. According to “The Economist”, the share of corporate income that goes to workers, as opposed to shareholders, has been going down for 30 years, and not just in America, but also across the world. In a separate report, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that the share of worker income has decreased from 66 percent to 62 percent since the early 1990s. That's why, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute, after-inflation wages have gone up only about 10 percent (and the minimum wage hasn't gone up at all), but the stock market has enriched investors including Wall Street bankers, as well as retirees, pension funds and school endowments by about 400 percent.

3. Cutting the cord. More than 90 percent of Americans now have a wireless phone. According to a survey by the National Center for Health Statistics, over 40 percent of American households have wireless phones, and no longer have a landline. Within the next five years fewer than half of all households are projected to have landlines. The groups most likely to live in wireless-only households: adults 18 to 34, Hispanics and people living in poverty.

4. Don't trust the polls. The spread of wireless has given headaches to the pollsters. It's more expensive to dial a cellphone than a landline, in part because the FCC requires a person rather than an auto-dialer to place calls to wireless phones. Some larger polling organizations have increased their cellphone coverage, but the amount of polling done through cellphones is still less than through landlines. This misrepresentation undercounts young people, poor people and Hispanics. Another problem: Many polls are now conducted by partisan organizations funded or affiliated with either the Democratic or Republican party. Even if they try to be accurate, they still tend to favor their own side.

5. China is not a threat. Despite what you may hear about how everything we buy is made in China, and how the Chinese will soon overtake the U.S. as the world's number one economic power, Americans are not too worried about it. According to Pew Research, over half of Americans (51 percent) say it is more important to build a stronger relationship with China on economic issues, while only 41 percent say it is more important to get tough with China. Older age groups are more likely to lean toward getting tough, but 72 percent of those under age 30 say we should build stronger ties to this nation.

6. Is America more polarized than ever? It depends how you look at it. Pew Research has found a "vast and growing gap" between committed Republicans and Democrats. But the political landscape includes a large and diverse center. The highly partisan groups, both left and right, involve about 36 percent of the general public. But 54 percent of the public sits solidly in the center (while the other 10 percent are completely disengaged). However, since partisans are more active, they represent over 50 percent of voters and political volunteers. Nevertheless, on hot-button issues such as abortion, gun ownership and immigration, a clear majority of Americans do not fall into the "always" or "never" camp, but take a more nuanced, centrist position. This majority believes both President Obama and Republican leaders should compromise to address the country’s biggest problems.