May 2009

One year ago, Architectural Record’s editorial addressed the issue of diversity in a column entitled, “Room for All Our Talents.” In the intervening months, despite the election of a new president of the United States and the economic free fall in our construction and design markets, little has changed to balance the national employee profile of the architectural office. African-Americans in particular still form only from 1.5 to 1.7 percent of the total number of registered architects.

Photo © André Souroujon

In turning again to the topic of diversity in architecture, this month’s editorial will not preach, but will present statistics reflecting contemporary reality, all drawn from the United States Census Bureau. The most recent data show how our racial and ethnic makeup as a country has changed, a factor that should influence architects.

How does your office align with the new realities? Unless your workplace has broadened to include individuals from a variety of backgrounds, you may find the client sitting across the table from you five years from now may have a different cultural background and set of expectations from yours. Will you be able to understand his or her needs?

While minorities now constitute about one third of the total U.S. population, by the year 2042, today’s minorities will become the majority. By that time, persons we classify as “minority” are projected to tip 54 percent, and even by 2023, the number of children now classified as minority becomes the majority. Things change.

By 2050, the number of whites in the U.S. population will have increased only slightly from today’s figures, while other groups should see large gains: Hispanics are expected to nearly triple in number, while African-Americans will grow from approximately 14 percent to 15 percent of the total. Asians should reach 9 percent of the population, increasing from a current level of 5 percent. The result of these shifts in ethnicity and racial makeup mean that, by the year 2042, persons classifying themselves as white will no longer constitute a majority of the United States, according to U.S. Census projections. More detailed statistics, excerpted from the report, flesh out the above points:

  • The non-Hispanic, single-race white population is projected to be only slightly larger in 2050 (203.3 million) than in 2008 (199.8 million). In fact, this group is projected to lose population in the 2030s and 2040s and compose 46 percent of the total population in 2050, down from 66 percent in 2008.

  • Hispanic population is projected to nearly triple, from 46.7 million to 132.8 million during the 2008–2050 period. Its share of the nation’s total population is projected to double, going from 15 percent to 30 percent. Thus, nearly one in three U.S. residents would be Hispanic.

  • The black population is projected to increase from 41.1 million, or 14 percent of the population, in 2008 to 65.7 million, or 15 percent of the nation’s population, in 2050.

  • The Asian population is projected to climb from 15.5 million to 40.6 million. Its share of the nation’s population is expected to rise from 5.1 percent to 9.2 percent.

  • American Indians and Alaska Natives are projected to rise from 4.9 million to 8.6 million (or from 1.6 to 2 percent of the total population). The Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population is expected to more than double, from 1.1 million to 2.6 million. The number of people who identify themselves as being of two or more races is projected to more than triple, from 5.2 million to 16.2 million.

Clearly, these statistics indicate that our former hiring practices, not to mention ways of speaking that emphasize dichotomy and oppositional language, such as “we/they,” fail to address how the United States and the world has changed. In today’s world, “they” have become “us.” The architectural practice that continues to support a monoculture fails to reflect the facts; attracting a new generation of talent to address the design demands of the 21st century remains a primary challenge for the future.

What can we do together? As a partial answer, in this issue, record looks at how one ethnic group, African-Americans, is faring today. A cluster of features, guest-edited by contributing editor David Sokol, explores the thinking of current leadership, as well as programs that can make a difference for the future. More work remains, on all our parts.

For more information on U.S. Census data, go to www/releases/archives/population/012496.html.

If you wish to write to our editor-in-chief you can email him