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Demography. 2002 Nov;39(4):587-616.

Demography and the social contract.

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Office of Population Research, Princeton University, 247 Wallace Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544-2091, USA.


As the most demographically complex nation in the world, the United States faces ever more formidable challenges to fulfill its commitment to the democratic values of equity and inclusion as the foreign-born share of the population increases. Immigration, the major source of the contemporary diversification of the population, provides several lessons about how to prepare for that future within a framework of social justice and how to realign recent demographic trends with cherished democratic principles. A review of historical and contemporary controversies about the representation of the foreign-born and alien suffrage both illustrates the reemergence of ascriptive civic hierarchies and highlights some potentially deleterious social and civic consequences of recent demographic trends.

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