Demographic growth characteristics are dynamically interrelated to fertility, mortality, and migration. Each racial and ethnic minority group in the United States has its own history of immigration and specific pattern of growth demonstrated in U.S. census data. There has been an ebb and flow of immigrants into the United States from the four major American minority groups. Each racial and ethnic group is composed of subgroups with each having their own pattern of growth. In general, all four major minority groups are increasing their numbers and percentages in the United States with Latinos and Asians leading growth trends. Increases in assimilation and education are generally accompanied by increases in life expectancy and improved health, concomitant with decreases in fertility and infant mortality. Demographic growth patterns of American minorities indicate that by the middle of the 21st century, the number of all minorities combined (African Americans, Asian Americans, American Indians and Alaskan Natives, and Hispanic Americans) will comprise more than 50% of the total U.S. population. Demographic changes in American minorities are having a profound impact on social structure, health care, educational, legal, and criminal justice systems. A thorough understanding of sociocultural, historical, and demographic characteristics of each racial and ethnic group is essential for understanding the needs of that group. It is also essential in providing effective health and mental health services and for future planning of health-care needs. The United States is rapidly becoming the world's first truly multicultural society. The challenges are great but so are the possibilities. As the United States changes so do its needs, including health and mental health concerns, but changes in demographics also represent opportunities for growth and betterment. When the unique perspectives of diversity, along with the quality and strength that diversity brings with it are factored into the overall picture, optimism prevails. It is important to remember that ethnic minorities bring resiliency, strength of character, a commitment to hard work, and many pluses that add not subtract from America (Suinn, 1999).
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