General Demographics in the 1980's

The demographics of the United States have remained generally steady throughout the course of the country's history, and the 1980's was no exception. Immigrants continued to flow into the country, adding to the already unique blending that would intensify American culture with it's broad melting pot of ethnicities and cultures from around the globe. The birth rate decreased slightly, as the last members of the baby boom generation reached their child bearing years. The 1980 Census was the most highly publicized census at that point in history, and the results of it were mostly unsurprising. The population of the United States of America was steadily increasing, through both an increasing birth rate of 9.8% and a net immigration rate.

Explosions in the Sunbelt

The most dramatic demographic change of the 1980's was the quick and drastic movement of people to the Sunbelt, the region across the South and Southwest of the United States. This explosion of people was in direct response to the quality of life in the Frostbelt cities, the industrial cities in the Northern United States. The movement would cause a large shift in economic stability, causing a decline in prosperity. It affected the educational services of the United States too, as schools became quickly overcrowded and the rush to expand would lead to poorly built schools with little funding and an overabundance of students with a poor student-teacher ratio. Social services suffered as well as these Southern cities became more diverse and the spread out, with poorly built homes for some of the less fortunate. Many people were forced to take lower paying jobs as well, creating a larger gap between the rich and the poor.

Growth Rate of the United States

The growth rate of the United States decreased slightly during the 1980's as compared to the decades before. The immigration rate had increased in the decades before, but it grew quicker in the 1980's than compared to the decades before. The growth rate stayed very similar, but the birth rate actually dropped due to the fact that the last members of the baby boom generation were exiting their child-bearing years. Their contribution to population growth was thus felt less during the 1980's than it had been in decades before.

Another interesting bit about the birth rate of the 1980's was that it was the decade in which teen pregnancy began being recognized as on the decrease. In years previous, teen pregnancy was fairly common, but from the 1980's on, it became less and less common, despite popular media in current times, such as shows like 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom. This trend was widely recognized as showing progress in the women's movements in the earlier decade.

Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 was a piece of legislation that worked to find and try illegal aliens for being in the country without proper authorization. This act required employers to attest to their employee's citizenship status, as well as made it illegal to hire most illegal immigrants (some agricultural employees were still allowed seasonally). It also provided citizenship for all illegal immigrants that had moved into the country before January 1, 1982 with an admission of guilt and a fine, as well as the payment of all back taxes. Because of this act, around 3 million illegal immigrants were granted citizenship.

The result of this act, further than the granting of citizenship, was that there was more widespread discrimination in the work place. Many employers, instead of relying on citizenship status, began to discriminate against workers who even appeared foreign. This discrimination led to a reduction in the amount of Hispanic employees in the workforce, simply because of the color of their skin.

Because immigrants were 6.2% of the American population in 1980, these changes resonated through society. However, a study done late in the 1980's revealed that immigration actually helped the economy as the positions for higher paying jobs ended up paying higher, and goods were produced and therefore sold for less money due to the increase of cheap labor.


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