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25 Trends That Changed America

10:24 AM, Mar 27, 2007   |    comments
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  • Today, USA TODAY editors and reporters pick the 25 most important trends of the past quarter-century. 1-Diversity Record immigration creates unparalleled racial and ethnic diversity. Hispanics overtake blacks as the largest minority. The federal government lets people identify themselves as of more than one race. Tikka Masala, edamame. and mole sauce join the lingo. American culture gets Latinized. There's a backlash - the English-as-an-official language movement. 2-Fighting for equality More women in the workplace. More poor women on the job, off welfare. The income gap between the sexes narrows - in 2005, women earned 77 cents for every dollar men make. Title IX. Mainstreaming the disabled. 3-Millions living longer The oldest of 79 million baby boomers turn 61 this year. Twenty-five years ago, the oldest were 36. Cost of health care multiplies. People have multiple careers. More life stages, from three generations to six (tweeners, 20-somethings, middle-age, young old, old, oldest old). 4-It's a small world after all Globalization takes hold. NAFTA. European Union. India and China emerge as economic powerhouses. Outsourcing. 5-Global warming The worry over climate change becomes so widespread that average folks discuss their carbon footprint. The Kyoto Accord. The shrinking polar ice cap. Melting glaciers. Monster hurricanes. El Niño, La Niña. 6-Gay rights gain ground Same-sex marriage, but 41 states ban it. Civil unions. Matthew Shepard. Ellen DeGeneres and other stars come out. Military says, "Don't ask, don't tell." 7-Are we safe? Fear of terrorism changes our lives. Color-coded threat levels. We take off our shoes at airports. X-ray machines peek under our clothes. No-fly lists. Columbine. Amber alerts, America's Most Wanted. Crime rates drop. 8-Snuffing out smoking In 1982, cigarettes were allowed almost everywhere. First they were banned in offices, then restaurants, public places and now maybe in your car and home. Nicotine patch. Nicotine gum. 9-Obesity crisis Fat kids. Fat adults. New dietary guidelines. Ban on trans fats. Push for walking. Diabetes rates soar. The Biggest Loser on TV. 10-Tech creates cult of 'me' Cellphones. The revolutionary switch from cassettes and VHS to CDs and DVDs. The Internet opens the floodgates. MySpace.com. Facebook. Blogs. It's all about customization and personalization. Shop and watch TV programs when you want (Amazon.com, TiVo). Download the song you want and listen to it when you want (iPod and MP3s). Capture every moment and play it for a worldwide audience (Youtube.com, camera phones, reality TV). 11-Spreading out Americans want elbow room. Land is cheaper away from cities. Sprawl accelerates. Exurbs. Extreme commutes. Traffic congestion worsens. The smart growth movement - getting people to eat up less open space and reduce driving - takes off. 12-Supersizing Bigger is better. McMansions. SUVs. Minivans. Megachurches. Wal-Mart and other big-box stores. Megaplex theaters. Hardee's Monster Thickburger (1,420 calories). 13-Going green It's not just for granola-crunching tree huggers anymore. There's a waiting list for hybrid cars. Curbside recycling. Low-flow toilets and showers. Organic foods in most supermarkets. Solar and wind power. Green office buildings. Battles over energy drilling and nuclear waste. 14-A nation divided Reagan Revolution. Bill Clinton. Rush Limbaugh, Al Franken. Hanging chads. Red and blue states. 15-Luxury goes mainstream Enjoying fancy perks no longer takes Bill Gates' fortune. Average Joes enjoy $4 cups of Joe at Starbucks, guzzle bottled water, feast on Godiva chocolates, drag suitcases on wheels, sit on heated car seats and let GPS systems guide them. 16-The end of Ozzie and Harriet families Children's overbooked schedules. Demise of the family dinner. Boomerang kids. Unconventional families (gay parents, stepparents, single parents). Blended families. 17-Diet and exercise boom Let's get physical. South Beach. Atkins. Weight Watchers. Fen Phen. Kickboxing. Tae-bo. Thighmaster. Pilates. BowFlex. For results, see No. 9. 18-On the move Coastal counties from Texas to New England grow by about 1,300 people a day. The "new" Sun Belt explodes. Phoenix, Las Vegas and Charlotte become major metropolitan centers. 19-High anxiety Prozac. Paxil. Xanax. Zoloft. Ritalin. Adderall. 20-Electronic cash Debit cards. ATMs around the world. Credit cards for $3 purchases. 21-Living alone More adults choosing to live by themselves. Marriage is delayed. More widows. About half of women have no spouse. 22-College stress grows Pressure to get into elite universities spawns rise of test-prep industry and high school résumés crammed with activities. Major decline in high school drop-out rate. More women than men in college. College costs soar - and so does college debt. 23-Sexualization Strip clubs for executives. Hooters. Paris Hilton. Britney Spears. Wardrobe malfunction. Online pornography. Girls Gone Wild. Viagra. Erectile dysfunction ads. 24-States bet on gambling State lotteries. Internet gambling. Casinos. Slot machines at racetracks. 25-Makeovers for the masses You look marvelous. Cosmetic surgery (from breast implants and nose jobs to stomach bands and liposuction). Botox. Dermabrasion. Teeth whitening. Lasik eye surgery. Extreme Makeover on TV. Next week... 25 Most Memorable Quotes Research by Haya El Nasser, USA TODAY

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