ters of the population identify themselves as non-Hispanic whites. By the middle of the next century, the fraction will decline to about one-half (51 percent). The two groups that will expand in relative terms are Hispanics and Asians. We project that the Asian population, which today comprises 3 percent of the population, will rise to 8 percent in 2050. Similarly, the relative size of the Hispanic population will more than double over this period from 1 in 10 to about 1 in 4.

Conclusions

This chapter paints a demographic portrait of Americans over the next half-century, taking the contribution of immigration into account. Our projections are based on a set of ethnic and generational specific rates of fertility, mortality, exogamy, and ethnic affiliation. This future population is simulated under five immigration scenarios, wherein the baseline scenario represents continuation of current policies of about 800,000 net immigrants per year. In addition, our simulations use four other immigration assumptions: net immigration of zero, 410,000 per year, 1.23 million, and 1.64 million per year. We consider net immigration levels of 410,000 (about one-half current levels) and 1.23 million (about 50 percent greater than current levels) to be realistic bounds for likely variation around current policies.

We project a 2050 population of 387 million, 124 million more than the 1995 total of 263 million. If current immigration flows continue, there will be about 45 million immigrants arriving in the United States between 1995 and 2050. These immigrants, plus their descendants, will add 80 million people to the population. Continued current levels of immigration will add substantial numbers to the future U.S. population, through the combined effects of adding new people and maintaining higher average fertility levels. If immigration is one-half current levels, the U.S. population will increase to 349 million; if immigration is one-half greater than current levels, the population will expand to 426 million in 2050.

Immigration will have a negligible effect on the balance of men and women in the future population, but it will significantly alter the age structure of the population. No matter what happens to immigration flows, the U.S. population will become older, as the large number of people in the baby-boom years reach retirement. Immigration has its largest impact on the youngest age groups in the population, with diminishing impacts on older age groups. Immigration will increase primary school, secondary school, and college enrollments, compared both with current numbers and with a future scenario of lower immigration. Immigration will increase the size of the labor force. The elderly population will increase substantially in the future, although immigration will play a supporting role in its expansion.

Even if immigration ceases immediately, the racial and ethnic composition of the U.S. population will change. Differences in fertility and mortality levels



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