We all know that landscape of the American population is shifting greatly due to changing demographics. A new report from the Census Bureau, however, brings into clear view on how the change will occur in the near future. For the first time since the mid-1800s, immigration is set to be the principal driver of population growth in the U.S.
As the immigration reform bill continues its long grind through Congress, the forces of demographic change await in the wings no matter what is decided. Absent a complete ban on all immigration, population growth from immigration will change the face of the American population.
The Census Bureau issued several estimates on the overall rate of immigrants due to the unknown shape of the immigration reform bill currently making its way through Congress currently. The factors of declining fertility rates, the aging of the baby boomer generation, and immigration means that the shift is inevitable absent a complete stoppage of all immigration entirely.
The first series has net migration levels increase from 750,000 in 2012 to 1.2 million in 2060. The low end of the scale has starts at 702,000 in 2012 and ends at 824,000 in 2060. The high end begins at 725,000 and reaches 1.6 million by 2060. The constant end has a level of 750,000 though the 2012-2060 period.
The population share of 65-and-older adults is projected to grow rapidly with the aging of the Baby Boomer generation. According the Census Bureau, they will overtake the population younger than 18 in 2038 in the constant estimate, 2046 in the low estimate, and 2056 in the first estimate. Only in the high estimate will the under-18 share of the population remain greater than the 65-and-older adult share.
The ethnic makeup of the United States would greatly change as well. The Hispanic portion of the overall population, currently at 17% in 2012, is estimated to reach 29.9% in 2060 in low estimates and 31.3% in the high series.
The overall picture has non-Hispanic single-race white people becoming a minority in all projections by 2060, with a 41.2% population share in the highest immigration projection and a 44.1% share in the lowest scenario.
The population under the age of 18 is projected to become majority-minority in either 2018 or 2019 in all of the Census Bureau's estimates. The working-age population will become minority-majority in 2036 with the high estimate or 2042 with the constant estimate.
However many factors could alter the actual shift in demographics. Unpredictable factors such as manmade or natural disasters in the U.S. or other countries, cultural changes, sudden economic distress or prosperity, or a very drastic reform to the immigration system could throw the numbers out of alignment.
Jennifer Ortman, a Census Bureau demographer, told the Washington Post, "As a whole, the U.S. population is projected to grow more slowly, the older population is expected to grow much larger, and the minority population will grow faster. Most of the immigrants coming into the U.S. population are roughly 15 to 45 years old, so we see that immigration is bolstering the working-age population and helping it to grow."
Much as America changed in the past with previous waves of immigration this wave will see a sea of change within America as well. Barring a complete shutdown of the borders, the inevitable demographic forces of time and population will change the face of America.