Data Opinion

Five Facts About the U.S. You Should Know -- And One You Can’t Ignore

By Anthony Jackson — November 18, 2013 3 min read
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Today, I am proud to announce a new project, Mapping the Nation. We are at the U.S. Department of Education with Secretary Arne Duncan. Please join a live webcast happening now, and tweet your questions to #MaptheNation. What is it about? My colleague and project director Heather Singmaster explains.

by Heather Singmaster

Ben Franklin famously said, “No country was ever ruined by trade.” America’s founding fathers, most of them bilingual, understood the nation’s connection with the greater world. “E Pluribus Unum” (“from many, one”), acknowledges that diversity is America’s strength. The words were commonly used during the revolutionary era, and are still today on the official seal of the United States and printed on American currency.

What many Americans may have lost sight of is the degree to which the United States is tied to the rest of the world -- and how diverse the country’s communities truly are. A new interactive map released today, featuring one million data points, shows how every county in the United States is globally connected.

Five important facts we learn from the map:

America’s markets are mostly abroad.

Ninety-five percent of consumers and three-quarters of the world’s purchasing power are outside U.S. borders. Globalization isn’t a challenge to American jobs; it’s an opportunity.

Globalization means domestic job growth.

One out of every five American jobs is currently tied to international trade. Twenty-four states have seen greater than 100 percent growth over a 20-year period; some states, like Maine, are approaching 200 percent job growth in this sector.

Global trade happens at the local level.

Consider land-locked Dakota County in Minnesota: it conducts $40 billion in export trade annually. How much money does your county bring in through global trade?

One in 10 of Americans is foreign born.

Hudson County in New Jersey has a higher foreign-born population than Los Angeles. Businesses and the national security sectors see diverse human capital as a great asset.

Americans speak more languages than ever in history.

Lake County, Illinois, has one in three households that speak a non-English language at home. But such stats are deceiving -- more non-English speakers may be living in the United States, but this doesn’t mean that young Americans are learning foreign languages at a rate fast enough to meet the needs of the global economy.

This isn’t a history lesson or current affairs report. It’s also a call to action, because here’s one fact we can’t ignore:

America is educating its students for the past, not the future.

In California, for instance, only 15 percent of students learn a foreign language, and the vast majority does not go beyond an introductory level. This is pretty common across states. Nationwide, only 0.001 percent of high school students study abroad, even though statistically, 20 percent of them will work in international trade related jobs in just a few years.

Asia Society, together with Longview Foundation and SAS, released Mapping the Nation, an ineractive map that shows how 3,000 U.S. counties are connected globally. It also uses available education data that points to a dearth of knowledge and skills needed to suceed in the global economy. One thing is clear: there is a tremendous gap between demand for a globally competent workforce, and the supply that is currently coming out of America’s schools and universities.

The real lesson here is this is not the responsibility of the education system alone. It takes a clear understanding of America’s economic and demographic context, as well as public and political will, to give educators the support they need to help keep the United States and its workforce remain strong.

Mapping the Nation is a joint project between Asia Society, Longview Foundation, and SAS. Follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #mapthenation.

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