from our model.34 College enrollments of 14.2 million in 1995 will increase to 19.4 million in 2050 under the medium net immigration scenario, assuming that college enrollment rates are unchanged from 1995 for the foreign-born and native-born in this age group. College enrollments will increase to 17.1 million under low net immigration and 21.8 million under high net immigration.35 Therefore, enrollments for U.S. colleges will grow about one-third by the middle of the next century. These enrollments will be incremented or decremented by more than 2 million students by the plausible range of immigration assumptions.

Working Age

The impacts of demographic trends on growth in the labor force, which comprises those aged 20 to 64, have received less public attention. The compositional changes associated with the sharp decline in fertility rates since the early 1960s appear to have been masked by the higher rates of immigration since the end of that decade, and by the noticeable increase in the participation of women in the labor force. However, policymakers continue to be puzzled by the high rates of unemployment among youths and by the continued higher unemployment of some minority groups. How many people will be in the labor force years in coming decades? And what role will immigration, with its impact on the age and sex composition of the population, play in that number?

Under all assumptions, the working-age population, at 171.5 million in 1995, will continue to grow throughout the projection period. By 2000, under the medium immigration assumption, this group will climb to 183.6 million, and by 2050, to 240.2 million, a 40 percent expansion from 1995.

Under the assumption of low net immigration, the working age population will increase gradually, to 215.7 million in 2050, or 26 percent greater than 1995. Under the high net immigration assumption, the increase will be to 265.2 million in 2050, or 55 percent above the 1995 level.36


These estimates assume no trade-off between changes in immigration policy and the number of young adults who seek nonimmigrant student status. If immigration were severely restricted, for example, persons who strongly wished to enter the United States might seek to enroll in college so that they could apply for a nonimmigrant visa.


Under the zero net immigration assumption, college enrollments in 2050 will be slightly higher than in 1995—14.5 million. Under the very high net immigration assumption, college enrollments will increase to 23.9 million in 2050.


Under the zero immigration assumption, the working age-population will increase modestly, to 189.1 million in 2050, or a 10 percent increase from 1995. Under the very high immigration assumption, the increase will be to 289.1 million in 2050, or 69 percent above the 1995 level.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement