Wednesday, December 3, 2014

America by the Numbers

America by the Numbers is a short-run series airing on PBS right now. Host and creator Maria Hinajosa, a long-time journalist at NPR and other outlets, visits a variety of locations around the U.S. to explore what it means for our country to be in the midst of a demographic transition from mostly white to mostly not white.

The first episode I saw, shot in Idaho, had some fascinating moments showing Hinajosa spending time with a white family who moved to Idaho to get away from people of color. The second episode, about a suburb of Atlanta that has become dominated by immigrant refugees, focused on their recent elections, where the first immigrants were elected to the city council.

The most recent episode is about the disgraceful infant mortality rate in the U.S., focusing on the gutted city of Rochester, New York. Even worse than Detroit, its primary employer has been wiped out (Kodak), leaving an urban core of poor people and a ring of wealthier suburbs. The half-hour episode shows the work that's being done to try and improve babies' chances of surviving. The larger question of the role of poverty and inequity are left hanging in the background, overshadowing all of the individual good efforts that are happening.

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