Infancy and Culture: An International Review and Source Book

By Hiram E.Fitzgerald; Rosalind B.Johnson et al. | Go to book overview

1

THE CULTURAL CONTEXT OF INFANCY

Hiram E. Fitzgerald

The idea for this volume was generated in a graduate seminar in developmental psychology that focused on the cultural context of infancy. The seminar was the direct result of several analyses of the published literature that indicated that scientific studies of children of color represented a disproportionately small portion of the publications from several of the most prominent journals in the field of human development. The relative lack of published studies stands in marked contrast to both immigration trends in the United States and the proportion of the United States population that is nonwhite. Since the 1980s nearly 85% of all immigrants to the United States are people of color, from various countries of Asia and the Pacific Rim, South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico. In the year 2000, the population of the United States is projected to be 275 million, a number expected to increase to 383 million by 2050. The white share of the population of 2050 will be close to 50%, a marked reduction from its current 72% of the population market. Because birth statistics are tabulated by the race of the infant’s mother, population demographics will underestimate the racial/ethnic diversity of America’s population, inasmuch as most mixed-race infants are born to white mothers and nonwhite fathers. Under counting in the national census has been a more significant problem for population estimates of African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and American Indians, than for Asian Americans and white Americans. Therefore, there are a number of reasons to believe that by 2050, the population of the United States will consist of less than 50% white Americans.

Currently, the United States government compiles statistics on four categories of racial/ethnic “minorities”: (1) African Americans or blacks; (2) Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders; (3) American Indians, Eskimos, and Aleuts; and (4) Hispanics. What do such categories mean for the study of infancy? Many authors have drawn attention to the fact that there is rich

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