and variations in the age structure of current ethnic groups imply that some would grow more quickly and some more slowly. The growth momentum for the white population, for instance, is less than that of the Asian and Hispanic populations—even in the absence of immigration.

Immigration is unlikely to be zero, however. If current immigration policy continues, the Asian and Hispanic populations will experience much more rapid growth, increasing relative to the total population. In 1995, 74 percent of the population was white, 12 percent black, 10 percent Hispanic, and 3 percent Asian. By 2050, the relative size of the white population will decline to 51 percent, the black population will increase only slightly to 14 percent, and the Asian and Hispanic populations will reach much higher levels, 8 and 26 percent, respectively. The Asian and Hispanic populations will increase under any immigration scenario. By 2050, the absolute and relative sizes of their populations will more than double.

The current extent of intermarriage and the ethnic self-identification of children of multiple-ancestry are critical parameters of our projections. Assuming that current levels of intermarriage continue, there will be a large increase in the number of persons of multiple-ancestry, especially for Asians and Hispanics. The multiple-ancestry population will increase from 18 million in 1995 to 81 million in 2050 (a growth from 7 to 16 percent of the total population). Such a population will add complexity and ambiguity to the ethnic definitions used. The proportion of the U.S. population with multiple-ancestry will continue to increase under any immigrant scenario. By the middle of the next century, the social meaning of ethnic and racial lines will become increasingly blurred.


Gurak, D.J., and J.P. Fitzpatrick 1982 Intermarriage among Hispanic ethnic groups in New York City. American Journal of Sociology 87:921-934.

Hirschman, C. 1996 Race and Ethnic Population Projections: A Critical Evaluation of Their Content and Meaning. Revision of a paper presented at the 13th SUNY, Albany Conference "American Diversity: A Demographic Challenge for the Twenty-First Century," April 15-16, 1994.

Hout, M., and J. Goldstein 1991 How 4.5 million Irish immigrants became 40 million Irish Americans: Demographic and subjective aspects of the ethnic composition of white Americans. American Sociological Review J9:64-82.

Long, J. 1991 The relative effects of fertility, mortality, and immigration on projected age structure. Pp. 503-522 in Wolfgang Lutz (editor), Future Demographic Trends in Europe and North America. New York: Academic Press.

Miltenyi, K. 1981 Population Projections: Problems and Solutions. Report of the Workshop on Population Projections, Budapest, Hungary, March 1980. Department of Technical Co-operation for Development, United Nations, New York.

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