U.S. Latino Population Projected To Soar

By N.C. Aizenman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The number of Hispanics in the United States will triple by 2050 and represent nearly 30 percent of the population if current trends continue, according to a report released yesterday.

The study by the nonpartisan, Washington-based Pew Research Center also found that nearly one in five Americans will be foreign-born in 2050, compared with about one in eight today. Asian Americans, representing 5 percent of the population today, are expected to boost their share to 9 percent.

Blacks are projected to maintain their current 13 percent share. Non-Hispanic whites will still be the nation's largest group, the report says, but would drop from 67 percent of U.S. residents to 47 percent.

Overall, by 2050 the U.S. population is projected to increase by 47 percent, from 296 million in 2005 to 438 million. Newly arriving immigrants would account for 47 percent of the rise, and their U.S.-born children and grandchildren would represent another 35 percent.

Authors of the study, which roughly tracks similar analyses by the Census Bureau and other sources, cautioned that their findings are projections based on immigration and demographic trends that may change.

Nonetheless, the report offers an intriguing picture of the possible long-term effects of the immigration surge that began after 1965, when Congress abolished a quota system that had nearly ended immigration from non-European countries since the 1920s.

Because of a declining birthrate among U.S.-born women, immigrants and their U.S.-born children and grandchildren already account for most of the nation's population increase over the past several decades. The study projects that by 2025, the foreign-born share of the population will surpass the peak recorded during the waves of immigration that occurred between 1860 and 1920, when foreign-born residents represented as much as 15 percent of the U.S. population.

But the study's authors said that immigration will do little to offset the more than doubling of the nation's elderly population as baby boomers age. By 2050, people older than 65 will make up 19 percent of the population, compared with 12 percent in 2005, while the share of working-age people will shrink from 63 percent to 58 percent.

This translates into a sharp rise in the "dependency ratio" of working-age people, compared with the number of young and elderly. Today, there are about 59 children or elderly people per 100 working-age adults. By 2050, that figure is expected to increase to 72 dependents per 100 working-age adults.

Though advocates of immigration have suggested that the newcomers can help offset the pressure boomers put on Social Security, the report indicates that even if immigration were reduced by 50 percent, the dependency ratio would change only from 72 dependents to 75 per 100 working-age adults.

Those who oppose allowing immigration to continue at its current pace interpreted the findings as vindication. "These numbers underline the fact that immigration is not a solution to the aging of the population," said Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors further limits on immigration. "And then we need to ask ourselves if we want the 100 million more people immigration will bring. Do you want 80 million more cars on the road, or 40 million homes occupying what's now open space?"

At a news conference to announce the report yesterday, co-authors D'Vera Cohn and Jeffrey S. Passel declined to draw policy conclusions. They also noted that even if their projections are accurate, the social implications may be different by 2050: Given the high rate of intermarriage between Latinos and members of other ethnic groups, many descendants of today's Latinos may not even identify themselves as such.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company