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Demographer to talk about big trends changing Minnesota, nation

Jim H. Johnson Jr. has been studying inequality, urban poverty and sociological changes in the United States for more than two decades.

Jim H. Johnson Jr., a nationally respected geographer, demographer and professor at the University of  North Carolina, Chapel Hill, will outline six demographic trends dramatically transforming Minnesota and other states at The Minneapolis Foundation’s annual meeting on Thursday.  

Johnson grew up poor and has been studying inequality, urban poverty and sociological changes in the United States for more than two decades.   

“You’re in the middle of it, all the trends,’’ Johnson said of the Twin Cities’ metro area. For example, Hennepin County and Ramsey County are growing slowly or losing population, while increasing in numbers of people of color, he said.  

As the “distinguished professor of strategy and entrepreneurship’’ at UNC,  he’s a driving force behind the Global Scholars Academy, a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade charter school in Durham, N.C., that serves poor neighborhoods. The program is touted as a way to transform those neighborhoods.

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“It’s a laboratory school, a beta test site for …educating poor kids. Our goal is to develop a franchise-able model of public education’’ that involves parents and pairs kids with successful mentors, he said.

“We focus on an entrepreneurial approach to poverty alleviation, job creation and community economic development,” he said. “We don’t assume the government is going to assume the problem. We think the private sector has a critical role to play in creating successful communities.’’       


Johnson, director of UNC’s Urban Investment Strategies Center, said he will discuss these six trends:

1. “The South rises again:” There’s heavy migration from other parts of the nation to those warmer climate states.  

2. “The browning of America:” Just look at population growth and see the largest growth among people of color, he said.

3. “Marrying out is in:’’ Marriage across races doubled between 1980 and 2008.

4. “The silver tsunami is about to hit:’’ Baby boomers are entering retirement with increased expectation of longevity.   

5. “The end of men?” Men’s status in society is “deteriorating,’’ Johnson said. They’re not finishing school and there are significantly more men than women in their prime working years who are disabled.

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6. “Cooling water from Grandma’s well… and Grandpa’s too:’’ More grandparents are raising their grandchildren across all races and ethnic groups, he said.

Johnson speaks at 11:30 a.m. on May 15 at the Hyatt Northstar Ballroom, 1300 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis.

(A disclosure note: The Minneapolis Foundation, which is hosting the talk, sponsors MinnPost’s Community Sketchbook.)