WASHINGTON —Sorry, Wichita.
Though there might be no more iconic a symbol of America's heartland than Kansas, a new study on the changing demographics of the past decade doesn't think you belong there anymore.
Welcome to the "Industrial Core." Say hello to some of your new "neighbors:" Birmingham, Ala., and Detroit.
Though far apart geographically and culturally, these three metro areas have more than a few things in common demographically, according to a new report from 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 "Industrial Core" is one of seven divisions that Brookings developed in its study, "State of Metropolitan America," to reflect the changing economic, demographic and social climate since 2000.
Wichita is one of 18 metro areas characterized as older, slow-growth manufacturing centers with aging and less diverse populations.
Middle-class wages are below the national average, the study found, as is the median income. Among the top 100 metro areas, Wichita is in the bottom half for adults over 25 with bachelor degrees, as well as 18-to-24-year-olds enrolled in higher education. And it has a low percentage of foreign-born residents.
Nationally, the Brookings report said, the U.S. was on course to become a nonwhite-majority country in another three decades or so. Among the highlights:
* The population grew by nearly 9 percent in the last decade, fueled largely by the influx of racial and ethnic minorities. Metro areas grew even faster — by 10.5 percent.
* Half of all children in the top 100 metro areas are nonwhite.
* Nationally, 1 in 8 Americans is foreign-born; in metro areas, 1 in 6.
* In 1990, only five of those metro areas had populations 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 nonwhite 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 bachelor degrees, compared with whites and Asians, who 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.
Besides the "Industrial Core," other divisions in the Brookings study group metro areas near the southwestern border, and those with higher growth, diversity and education levels. But shared geography was definitely not a factor.
In its "New Heartland" category, Brookings included the Kansas City metro area, one of 19 "fast growing, highly educated locales" with diversity levels below the national average.
"We are right there in the middle of these trends, not experiencing their extremes," said Frank Lenk, director of research at the Mid-America Regional Council, a Kansas City-area planning group. "As a result, the negative changes, like more income inequality, didn't hit us here."
But other "New Heartland" metro areas were Portland, Ore., and Charleston, S.C., from opposite coasts.
"A new map is emerging," Katz said.