Immigration will be the primary driver of population growth in the United States within a few decades, a milestone not seen in almost two centuries, the Census Bureau projected Wednesday.

The Census Bureau said immigration will outstrip natural increase — the difference between births and deaths for the total population — by as early as 2027, but no later than 2038. The differing scenarios depend on how many immigrants continue coming to the U.S.

If immigration levels are high, the census said, non-Hispanic whites would become a minority in the country as early as 2041.

In 2012, minorities made up 37 percent of the population. Under any scenario, even one with low immigration levels, minorities are expected to make up an ever-larger share of the population in the future.

“Our nation has had higher immigration rates in the past, particularly during the great waves of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, said Thomas Mesenbourg, the Census Bureau’s senior adviser, in a written statement. “This projected milestone reflects the mix of our nation’s declining fertility rates, the aging of the baby boomer population and continued immigration.”

William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution, noted that even if immigration slows dramatically, minorities will be a majority in the country no later than 2046.

“An immigration slowdown will not keep us from becoming more diverse,” he said.