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The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century
the 1.5 billion people that the world’s population will gain by 2020, most will be added to countries in Asia and Africa (see Figure 2). By 2015, and for the first time in history, the majority of people, mostly poor (see Figure 3), will reside in urban centers, mostly in countries that lack the economic, social, and physical infrastructures to support a burgeoning population. By 2050, if work retirement patterns remain the same, the ratio of taxpaying workers to nonworking pensioners in the developed world will fall from 4:1 to 2:1. Hence, in 2020 the world will be more crowded and will have more centers of dense population, and the potential is high that many people will live in regions with fewer technological resources. These factors present several challenges for society and multiple opportunities for the application of thoughtfully constructed solutions through the work of engineers.
A review of the 2000 U.S. census indicates a proportional increase in minority populations. During the 1990s, the combined populations of African Americans, Native Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics/Latinos grew at 13 times the rate of the non-Hispanic white population. Table 5 summarizes the demographic statistics by age, gender, and race/ethnicity. Most notable is the increase in the number of Hispanic Americans, which now surpasses the African American population. The U.S. Hispanic population grew 58 percent between 1990 and 2000.
If current trends continue, Hispanic Americans will account for 17 percent of the U.S. population by 2020, and African Americans 12.8 percent. The percentage of whites will decline from the 2000 value of 75.6 percent to 63.7 percent. Looking further into the future, by 2050, almost half of the U.S. population will be non-white (U.S. Census Bureau, 2002). Thus, in 2020 and beyond, the engineering profession will need to develop solutions that are acceptable to an increasingly diverse population and will need to draw more students from sectors that traditionally have not been well represented in the engineering workforce.
Health and Health Care
We cannot think about population growth and distribution in 2020 without considering human health and health care delivery. Citizens of 2020, as now, will look to their leaders to close the health care gaps related to technology and access. Through the development of innova-