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Today at NRHA: Former Census Bureau chief outlines how changing demographics impact health care

Former U.S. Census Bureau Director Steve Murdock, PhD, kicked off the National Rural Health Association’s 17th Annual Rural Multiracial and Multicultural Health Conference in Daytona Beach this morning. He discussed the socioeconomic implications of the country’s changing demographics, and said “we have markedly increased inequality in America.” “Education is, of course, the answer,” Murdock told conference participants. “Some people you deal with are poorer than they used to be, and many of them were already impoverished,” he said. “And it’s not only a pattern of the South or of the Midwest.” Murdock said that the U.S. population grew 9.7 percent from 2000 to 2010, the second slowest rate of population in the country’s history. “The recession, depression or whatever you want to call it is clearly impacting population change,” Murdock said. And most of that growth, he explained, was due to natural increase, not immigration. “There’s substantial ignorance about how many immigrants there are and their status,” Murdock explained. “It’s important to realize, whatever the fervor about this, most of our growth is not due to undocumented immigrants.” Estimates show that there are 10 to 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country, he said. “Despite the fact that we have a lady standing in the harbor with outstretched arms, and we like to say we are a country of immigrants, the evidence would show that the U.S. has never liked immigrants in our history,” Murdock said. “Over time we’ve generally accepted these groups, and generally when we’re most upset about immigrants is when times are tough.” When the U.S. economy was growing, Murdock said more than 50 percent of jobs were filled by foreign-born citizens, “and I’m not just talking about lawn mowing. I’m talking about engineers.” He explained that rural areas have experienced a “see-saw effect” in population decline and growth. In the last decade, rural counties’ growth was 79 percent due to minority populations. Suburban growth was 50 percent due to minority populations. “The reality is that nonmetropolitan America is increasingly looking more like central city America with similar types of populations,” he said. He also discussed the impact the aging baby boomer generation will have on rural health care systems. The conference continues through Dec. 8. For more information, click here.

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