The U.S. population will soar to 438 million by 2050 and the Hispanic population will triple, according to projections released Monday by the Pew Research Center. The latest projections by the non-partisan research group are higher than government estimates to date and paint a portrait of an America dramatically different from today's.
The projected growth in the U.S. population — 303 million today — will be driven primarily by immigration among all groups except the elderly.
"We're assuming that the rate of immigration will stay roughly constant," says Jeffrey Passel, co-author of the report.
Even if immigration is limited, Hispanics' share of the population will increase because they have higher birth rates than the overall population. That's largely because Hispanic immigrants are younger than the nation's aging baby boom population. By 2030, all 79 million boomers will be at least 65 and the elderly will grow faster than any other age group.
The projections show that by 2050:
•Nearly one in five Americans will have been born outside the USA vs. one in eight in 2005. Sometime between 2020 and 2025, the percentage of foreign-born will surpass the historic peak reached a century ago during the last big immigration wave. New immigrants and their children and grandchildren born in the USA will account for 82% of the population increase from 2005 to 2050.
•Whites who are not Hispanic, now two-thirds of the population, will become a minority when their share drops to 47%. They made up 85% of the population in 1960.
•Hispanics, already the largest minority group, will more than double their share of the population to 29%.
•Blacks will remain 13% of the population. Asians will go to 9% from 5%.
Nobody ever, never, ever thinks about this, but how is affirmative action going to work when the beneficiaries outnumber the benefactors? It's exactly like the social security problems down the road as the retiree to worker ratio rises, but we've all seen millions of words about that and practically nothing about the analogous affirmative action problem.
As John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater sang in "Fortunate Son:"
And when you ask them, how much should we give?
Ooh, they only answer more! more! more!
P.S. Well, I've thought about it -- here's one of my articles crunching the numbers. And here's another that explains why black leaders almost never criticize affirmative action privileges for brand new immigrants who just got off the plane.
The crazy thing is that everybody just wants to argue -- pro or con -- over affirmative action for blacks. Critics of quotas want to attack preferences exactly where the argument in favor of them is strongest -- that America owes something to the descendants of slaves. In contrast, nobody would claim with a straight face that we owe anything to Argentineans who have just got off the jumbo jet from Buenos Aires, and yet they benefit from quotas too! But the future will be dominated numerically by quota-eligible Hispanics, not by quota-eligible blacks.
It's also worth pondering what proportion of those 438 million people in 2050 will have been born to unmarried women. Just from 2005 to 2006, the number of babies born to married white women fell 0.4% while the number of babies born to unmarried Latinas grew 9.6%! The Hispanic illegitimacy rate is now up to 50%. What will it be in 2050? What does this portend for law-abidingness, education, social capital, technological innovation and a host of other good things that are correlated with intact families?