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Lifestyle 2000: new enterprise and cultural diversity.

THE SOCIAL, economic, and political dynamics of a society will depend greatly on its economic system and the wealth accumulation of its citizens. In particular, the diversity and creativity of its population will serve to expand the horizons of those that have economic self-sufficiency and make it possible for those individuals and families who are not in the mainstream to be given realistic opportunities to achieve such independence. With this comes the basis for social and political stability and growth. The evidence is clear today as the daily papers report that the dramatic changes in Europe, Latin America, and Asia are driven by former totalitarian regimes not being able to answer and provide the basic needs of their people. Suppressing the individual creative and economic drives of a nation's populace dooms that country's ability to survive and meet the challenges of the future.

The U.S. was created through the ideas and needs of people from diverse cultures fleeing the oppressive political regimes of their homelands. The opportunity associated with expansion of this new nation created freedom and wealth for some and hardship and slavery for others. From the early 1600s to the early 1800s, more than 1,800,000 immigrants entered the country, mostly from England and Ireland. The 1790 census showed that 4,000,000 persons lived in the U.S.

As the nation expanded, new industries and wealth were created. Wealth from the soil proliferated as oil, gold, grains, tobacco, and cotton served a growing population as well as overseas markets. Rather than cultural diversity, however, Manifest Destiny subsumed those who couldn't assimilate fast enough. Whether Native Americans, African slaves, or Asian coolies, individual rights and cultural roots were severed as irrelevant in the scheme of things.

From 1820 to 1889, Germany, Ireland, Canada, Sweden, and France sent the most immigrants, fleeing from poor harvests and political unrest. Between 1841 and 1860, the U.S. accepted more than 4,300,000 newcomers. During the 1840s and 1850s, about 1,500,000 Irish came; between the 1840s and 1880s, approximately 4,000,000 Germans arrived; and 1,500,000 people from Scandinavian countries settled in America between the 1870s and 1900s. Public high school education in the U.S. was just getting off the ground by 1850 to accommodate those families that couldn't afford private lessons.

Railroads, steel, new power sources, and financial services were the main generators of economic, social, and political activity and control, but a new middle class of entrepreneurs also was being spun off in great numbers in the form of farmers, jobbers, wholesalers, retailers, and manufacturers. Owners and workers of these enterprises combined new skills with cheap (and often abused) labor, looking to this economic expansion as the means to achieve financial, social, and political self-sufficiency for the future.

During the last half of the 19th century, many issues of cultural diversity came to a head. Native Americans, Hispanics, and Asians were forced into trying to survive in an economic roller coaster that was clearly beyond their physical and cultural control. With the Emancipation Proclamation, Pres. Abraham Lincoln signaled the necessity for the U.S. to have a free and diverse society. However, he freed indentured individuals with little education and skills to compete in a socially biased, economically competitive society. There were nearly 4,000,000 black slaves in 1860, representing more than one-third of the population of the southern slave states.

The approach of the 20th century triggered still additional social and economic clashes as pogroms in eastern Europe brought boatloads of Jews seeking economic and social justice. Nearly 2,500,000 Jews arrived from eastern Europe, with about 1,000,000 non-Jewish Poles entering the U.S. between the 1880s and 1920s. Approximately 4,000,000 Austrians, Hungarians, Czechs, and Slovaks sought a better life in America during this same period.

In 1907, the U.S. admitted a record 1,300,000 immigrants, 70% from southern and eastern Europe. About 4,500,000 Italians also came between the 1880s and 1920s to flee famine and poverty, accepting whatever duties others wouldn't perform. These individuals--lacking formal learning and clashing with existing Americans for the most menial, lowest-paying tasks--tried to blend and assimilate into the new culture. The U.S. population was placed at more than 75,000,000 in 1900.

Dealing with presumed ignorant Native Americans, immigrants, and former slaves from Africa--all with different cultures, colors, and/or physical appearances--became an anathema for those whose forefathers came to the U.S. only generations before, but had the good fortune, education, and drive to be at the starting gate of a unique economic expansion. It would be hard to imagine that the well-being of subsequent generations of these nouveau riche Americans would be tied to the successful evolution of these same peoples into the U.S. economic mainstream. The Depression years brought out the staying power and resiliency of these new Americans, contributing to the arts as well as labor and industry.

Yet, even though there were assimilation efforts by those striving to be included as upwardly socially mobile Americans, it was their diversity, creativity, and perseverance that drove the U.S. economic engine into and through the 20th century. The social, cultural, and political nature of the country and the world changed as the U.S. became the major power.

The immigrants and emigres strove to educate themselves and become accepted. New industries emerged out of these fertile and sometimes desperate minds. Movies, radio, television, electronics, ship building, housing, newspapers, entertainment, and new sciences and scientific theories, as well as small retail shops and restaurants, became the basis by which wealth would accumulate for these first- or second-generation Americans. The need to build economic security and equity for future family generations sometimes would interfere with what was appropriate for the present. The economic aftermath of World War II expanded these potentials exponentially.

The war also slowly spun out economic and social opportunities previously closed to many minority Americans. Sports opened up to blacks, creating wealth and role models that would lead to new business creation on a small and shaky scale. Government policies created educational opportunities for minority Americans to help them compete after 200 years of being held back from fulfilling their latent potential. Minority families accumulated sufficient income through an 18-hour day in low-skill jobs or by operating their own lifestyle business to pay for the schooling of the newest generation. Music and entertainment businesses became growth industries for minorities with or without formal education.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the U.S. was dominant in new venture creation in scientific fields--computers, health, electronics, etc. The development of an American venture capital industry during this time frame permitted creativity and growth in technical and nontechnical areas. Funds directed toward minority business enterprises also rose. Generations of technically gifted young Americans began to create opportunities. Many businesses emerged from these scientific advancements, including a number created by skilled minority entrepreneurs. In addition, nontechnical growth businesses were created in the franchise, entertainment, and communications fields, as well as retail, wholesale, and manufacturing areas. New wealth accumulation occurred for owners, investors, and employees of these growth firms.

The new immigrants

During this time, waves of immigrants began flooding U.S. shores for the same reasons as prior groups had. Asians and Hispanics were trying to escape from the poverty, war, and tyranny in Southeast Asia and Latin and Central America. Between the 1960s and 1980s, more than 700,000 Cubans fled their island to avoid the communist takeover. Vietnamese emigres during the 1960s and 1970s numbered about 500,000. Moreover, between the 1970s and 1980s, 900,000 immigrants from the Caribbean fled unemployment and poverty.

Clashes and confrontation occur when new groups vie for the most menial jobs with existing job-seekers. Again, wealth, independence, and economic status accumulate more rapidly for these families through business ownership than from the low wage rates they may receive. Also, as has been seen in prior first- and second-generation emigres, social acceptance, while never total, is closest to reality when economic independence is assured.

During the 1980s, the U.S. began to lose its position as the world's economic leader. Automobiles, electronics and semiconductors, financial services, and manufacturing of durable goods all were given up to foreign competitors. The U.S. venture capital industry no longer invested in ideas, but in bailouts and reorganizations, with many deals occurring overseas. At the same time, communist and other such regimes began to topple in favor of free market economies and private enterprise. A wave of Russian emigres came to the U.S. with highly specialized scientific knowledge, but naivete about the world of freedom and private enterprise. Sources for new wealth creation opportunities dried up, yet minority-owned businesses grew rapidly.

The latest available data from the Commerce Department is revealing. The number of black businesses with paid employees grew 87% between 1982 and 1987, generating receipts of more than $14,000,000,000, up 147% over 1982. This figure jumps to nearly $20,000,000,000 if firms without paid employees are included. Equivalent data for Hispanics show firms with paid employees increased 111% from 1982 to 1987, with sales and receipts of $17,700,000,000, up 138% from 1982. Receipts for all Hispanic companies, including those without paid employees, amounted to nearly $25,000,000,000 in 1987. Women-owned businesses with paid employees grew to 618,000, up 98% from 1982. They had sales and receipts of $224,000,000,000, an increase of 245% over 1982 figures. Receipts for all such firms (with and without paid employees) amounted to $278,000,000,000. To place this data in perspective, the total 1987 sales and receipts for all U.S. firms was 1.7 trillion dollars, representing 3,500,000 businesses with paid employees, and nearly two trillion dollars in receipts, representing 13,700,000 (with and without paid employees).

Projected population figures indicate that, by the year 2010, total U.S. population will increase to around 282,500,000, or 12.8% over 1990. The white population will reach 229,000,000, with a modest nine percent increase, while there will be approximately 40,000,000 blacks, a 29% rise from 1990, and Hispanics will total more than 38,000,000, nearly an 80% jump.

Cultural diversity for the next century will be greater than any time in American history. According to some Japanese writings, Japan will increase its dominance in the economic world because of its similarity of culture and population, while the U.S. will continue to lose its economic share because of growing American diversity. History has shown U.S. strength to rest in the creativity and drive of its multicultural society.

As the nation nears the 21st century burdened with the economic difficulties of the 1990s and a rapidly changing world arena, the following questions must be addressed: How will the U.S. sustain itself and its people without calling on the diversity inherent in a free people? Can the multiple cultures of the next generation cope better with some of the social ostracism of the past than its predecessors? Will the entrepreneurial role models of the next century overcome the inherent biases and insecurity found at the beginning of this one or will the same mistakes be made? Will wealth accumulation through business ownership for minority population be the fastest way out of the 20th-century poverty and education maelstrom? Will women's roles as business owners radically revise management and labor concepts? How will the dramatic increases in minority- and female-owned enterprises affect the U.S.'s worldwide economic competitive position? How will these dramatic demographic changes in business ownership and independent wealth accumulation affect the social, political, and economic direction of the U.S. in the 21st century?
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Author:Feigen, Jerry
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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