Considering the economic status of black Americans and Hispanics in the 1970's, 1980's, and 1990's, it is easy to be cynical about the accomplishments of their reform movements in the 1960s

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The nation's immigration quotas expanded allowing more newcomers to enter the United States legally than at any point since the beginning of the twentieth century. The Immigration Reform Act of 1965 had eliminated quotas based on national origin. Newcomers from regions other than Latin America were generally admitted on a first-come, first-served basis. The extent and character of the new immigration was causing a dramatic change in the composition of the American population. By the end of the twentieth century, people of white European background made up under 80 percent of the population. Latinos were significant segments of the American population for many decades. The group experienced enormous growth after 1965. People from Latin America made up more than a third of the total number of legal immigrants to the United States in every year after 1965 and a much larger proportion of the total number of illegal immigrants. Mexico accounted for over one-forth of all the immigrants living in the United States in 2000.

In California and the Southwest, Mexicans because an increasingly important presence. High birth rats within Latino communities already in the United States further increased their numbers. In the 1980 census, 6 percent of the population was listed as being of Hispanic origin.

The civil rights movement and the other liberal efforts of the 1960s had two very different effects on African Americans. There were increased opportunities for advancement available to those in a position to take advantage of them. As the industrial economy declined and government services dwindled, there was a growing sense of helplessness and despair among the large groups of nonwhites who continued to find themselves barred from upward mobility. For the black middle class, progress was remarkable in the thirty years since the high point of the civil rights movement. Disparities...