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Geographic Distribution of U.S. Population, Migration and Diversity

jalapeno bagels, residential patterns, American architectural styles, ethnic neighborhoods, Ethnic enclaves

Americans’ propensity to move helps break down ethnic affiliations and homogenize American society. Ethnic enclaves, with their own churches, social groups, newspapers, schools, and languages, are difficult to reproduce after a move. Intermarriage increases, mingling formerly distinct cultural traits. Over time, ethnic neighborhoods gradually shrink and are replaced by residential areas that are more mixed ethnically, although at the same time newer immigrants are creating their own ethnic enclaves. Migration generally tends to weaken the strong sense of community inherent in ethnic enclaves—neighbors may not know one another, extended family ties break down, and friendships are more transitory.

Racial differences between African Americans and European Americans, however, are so deeply rooted in the American psyche that they continue to be replicated, even in rapidly growing areas. Local laws no longer mandate segregation as they did before the 1950s, but it persists in residential patterns, in primary and secondary schools, and in religion, although it is disappearing in politics, entertainment, higher education, and in some employment sectors.

Although migration has caused some cultural differences to disappear as people blended, many ethnic identifiers have remained, spreading across the country as people migrated from one place to another. Today they have become part of America’s cultural heritage. Ethnic influences can be seen in music, food, sports, and holidays. Jazz, the blues, bluegrass, Cajun, and other forms of music have spread beyond their original locales because of migration. As these American forms of music spread, they are influenced by still other musical traditions. Foods that immigrants from around the globe introduced to this country are commonly found in many supermarkets. Such foods include pizza, tacos, salsa, bagels, dim sum, sushi, couscous, and spaghetti. As food traditions blend, they sometimes produce oddities, such as jalapeno bagels and pizza with snow peas. Many American sports, such as hockey, football, and lacrosse, have origins in other cultures and countries. Christmas holiday traditions stem from German and Dutch influences, and Jewish and African American groups maintain alternatives to Christmas celebrations. Even American architectural styles often have foreign origins—chalets from Switzerland, log cabins from northern Europe, and bungalows from India are just a few examples. The richness of American civilization comes from adopting and adapting different traditions.

America has its own homegrown traditions ranging from popular musical styles such as Tin Pan Alley, Broadway musicals, and rock and roll, which little resemble Old World models. Indigenous foods, including turkey, pumpkins, and cranberries, characterize the celebration of Thanksgiving, a day that, along with the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, and Labor Day, has meaning for Americans of many religions, races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.

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