WASHINGTON — Forget about the Midwest, Kansas City. You're now part of the "New Heartland."
So are you Charleston, S.C, even with all your Spanish moss and Southern charm, and Portland Ore., way out there on the Pacific Coast.
These three metropolitan areas couldn't be further apart geographically.
Demographically, however, they might have more in common with each other than they do with some of their regional neighbors, according to a new study by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
Social changes over the last decade, especially the increase in racial and ethnic minorities, are scrambling regional stereotypes and dramatically altering the traditional portrait of America.
"Our metropolitan areas are on the front lines of demographic transformation," said Bruce Katz, director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings. "Every trend that is affecting the nation — growth, diversity, aging, education disparities, income inequities — is affecting our major metropolitan areas first at a speed, scale and complexity that are truly historic."
The study, "State of Metropolitan America," said the nation is on course to become a non-white majority country in another three decades or so. Among the highlights:
_ The nation's population grew by nearly 9 percent in the last decade, fueled largely by racial and ethnic minorities. Metro areas grew even faster — by 10.5 percent.
_ Half of all children in the top 100 metro areas are non-white.
_ Nationally, one in eight Americans is foreign-born; in metro areas, one in six.
_ Only five of those metro areas had populations in 1990 where minorities made up the majority. Now, 17 do.
Meanwhile, the combined total of baby boomers and seniors reached more than 100 million in the past decade, the study found. A large majority lives in the suburbs. But those neighborhoods weren't built to accommodate an aging population. And they live alongside the growing percentage of non-white youths, which the report called a recipe for a "cultural generation gap."
Another emerging divide is in education, according to the report. More than 80 percent of Hispanic and African American adults don't have bachelors degrees. Whites and Asians are more than twice as likely to have completed college.
The data, likely to reflect many of the findings of the 2010 Census, comes from the Census Bureau's annual America Community Survey.
The "New Heartland" of Kansas City, Charleston and Portland is one of seven divisions that Brookings created to reflect the changing economic, demographic and social climate since 2000.
They are among 19 "fast growing, highly educated locales" with diversity levels below the national average, including Charlotte and Raleigh in North Carolina and Columbia in South Carolina.
Other divisions group metro areas near the Southwestern border, and those with higher growth, diversity and education levels. Shared geography definitely is not a factor.
The "Border Growth" metro areas include border cities such as El Paso and McAllen in Texas, but also Fresno, Modesto, Bakersfield and Stockton in California's San Joaquin Valley. They are marked by a significant and growing presence of Mexican and other Latin American immigrants.
"Mid-Sized Magnet" metro areas such as Boise, Idaho, and Bradenton, Fla., have similar growth and educational profiles to "Border Growth" areas, but have lower shares of Hispanic and Asian minorities.
Of the eight metro areas described as "Next Frontier," eight — including Dallas-Fort Worth, Sacramento, Calif., and Seattle-Tacoma — are west of the Mississippi River (only the Washington, D.C., metro area is east). They exceed national averages on population growth, diversity, and educational attainment. Their diversified economies and relatively mild climates have attracted immigrants, families and educated workers, according to the study.
The St. Louis metro area, for example, is in the "Skilled Anchor" group, marked by slow growth and less diversity, but with education levels higher than the national average. Middle-class wages are slightly higher in the region than they are nationally, though they have dipped since 2000.
Other "Skilled Anchor" metro areas include Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Jackson, Miss.
Then take Wichita, Kan. There might be no more iconic a symbol of the heartland than the Sunflower State.
But Brookings placed the Wichita metro area in its "Industrial Core," a collection of older, slow-growth manufacturing centers with aging, less diverse populations.
Think Detroit, or Birmingham, Ala.
"A new map is emerging," Katz said
Metro area groupings
"Next Frontier" metro areas exceed national averages on population growth, diversity, and educational attainment:
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas
"New Heartland" metro areas are fast growing, highly educated locales, but have lower shares of Hispanic and Asian populations than the national average:
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Des Moines, Iowa
Kansas City, Mo.-Kan.
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.-Wis.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Diverse Giant metro areas are some of the largest metro areas in the country. They have above-average educational attainment and diversity, but below-average population growth, owing in part to their large sizes:
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, Calif.
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Fla.
New York-Newark, N.Y.-N.J.-Pa.
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, Calif.
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif.
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.
Border Growth metro areas are mostly located in southwestern border states, and as such are marked by a significant and growing presence of Mexican and other Latin American immigrants.
El Paso, Texas
Las Vegas, Nev.
Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif.
San Antonio, Texas
Mid-Sized Magnet metro areas are similar in their recent growth and educational profile to Border Growth centers, but are distinguished by lower shares of Hispanic and Asian minorities:
Baton Rouge, La.
Cape Coral, Fla.
Greensboro-High Point, N.C.
Little Rock, Ark.
Palm Bay, Fla.
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla.
Skilled Anchor metro areas are slow-growing, less diverse metro areas that boast higher-than-average levels of educational attainment:
New Haven, Ct.
St. Louis, Mo.-Ill.
Industrial Core metro areas are slower-growing, less diverse, and less educated than national averages, and significantly older than the large metropolitan average:
Augusta-Richmond County, Ga.-S.C.
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, Va.-N.C.
ON THE WEB
MORE FROM MCCLATCHY
Follow the latest politics news at McClatchy's Planet Washington