WHO WE ARE: A Portrait of America Based on the 1990 Census by Sam Roberts

WHO WE ARE: A Portrait of America Based on the 1990 Census

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KIRKUS REVIEW

At best, census statistics represent single frames in a moving picture. With due regard for the limitations, New York Times columnist Roberts has seized upon the demographic data accruing from 1990's nose count to produce a series of snapshots that provide provocative if sometimes blurry perspectives on the vigorous state of the union. The author imposes a welcome measure of order on the wealth of figures at his disposal by focusing on a dozen major topics from vantage points that afford him access to both a rearview mirror and a crystal ball. Cases in point range from a rundown on the country's ethnic/racial mix through rapid-fire takes on the age, economic status, education, lifestyle, and allied characteristics of US residents (whether aliens or citizens). Roberts delivers his by-the-numbers briefings and interpretive commentary (which is informed by a notably liberal sensibility) at a breakneck pace that could overwhelm the inattentive. The easily distracted need not despair, however, because nearly every page includes an arresting fact or finding that will give most readers pause. By way of example, in canvassing our culturally diverse, graying, predominantly suburban population (which had expanded by close to 10%, to almost 249.0 million, since the last decennial check), enumerators found more millionaires than homeless street people. They also learned that blacks are the only group whose women outnumber its men in the labor force and that no family group grew faster than single parents, while the roll call of gainfully employed health-care workers was 50% greater than in 1980; elsewhere on the minus side of 1990's ledger, twice as many individuals worked for government as themselves. Absorbing abstracts that breathe life and meaning into the mercurial arithmetic of America. The text has helpful charts, maps, and tabular material throughout.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1994
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Times Books