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immigration. The age structure of the white population, for example, has less momentum for future growth, whereas the Asian and Hispanic populations will continue to grow, even if they receive no further immigrants.
But net immigration is unlikely to be zero, and it will significantly affect population growth in two ways. First, the level of immigration matters. Each immigrant directly adds one new person to a racial/ethnic group. Second, beyond simply their numbers, the procreativity of immigrants—that is, their ages and fertility rates—matters, for succeeding generations. A young immigrant in a group with generally high fertility rates will add the most descendants, whereas an elderly immigrant will add few. Beyond this, exogamy and the self-identification of multiple-ancestry persons influence the racial/ethnic composition of the population. Hence, the future growth of racial/ethnic groups will be a complex product of several interacting factors.
Given our assumptions—that the current level and composition of immigration, of exogamy, and of kinds of racial/ethnic identification will continue, the racial/ethnic composition of the population will experience a pronounced shift in the next decades. In 1990, according to the 1990 census, 75 percent of the population was white. The remaining one-quarter was divided thus: 12 percent black, 9 percent Hispanic, 3 percent Asian, and about 1 percent American Indian. If we assume medium net immigration levels, constant exogamy conditions, and the medium level of racial/ethnic attribution for multiple-ancestry persons, the white population will increase from 194 million in 1995 to a peak of 211 million in 2025 and then start to fall (see Figure 3.11 and Table 3.7). By 2050, the white population will have become relatively less numerous and drop from 75 percent of the total population to only 50 percent.45
The black population, meanwhile, will increase substantially, from 32 to 54 million. Its share, however, will change only a little, from 12 to 14 percent of the population. The black population will grow primarily because of higher fertility rates and very high attribution rates (children with one black parent are more likely to report themselves as black). Immigration will play a secondary role for population change for the black population. The range of the projected black populations for 2050 varies only from 52 to 56 million for the low to high net immigration assumptions.
In contrast, both the Asian and Hispanic population will grow rapidly under current immigration policy. The Asian population will expand at annual rates
The white population is likely to change little in the future, compared with the growth of other ethnic groups. The white population is characterized by slightly lower fertility, low immigration relative to its population size, and attribution rates that are below 50 percent. Nevertheless, over one-fifth of immigrants add to the white population, and variations in net immigration levels matter. The range of population size for the white population varies from 191 to 211 million in 2050, based on low to high net immigration, compared with a population of 194 million in 1995.