The Census Bureau recently released its 2014 population projections, gaming out the next 45 years of population growth and changes in the United States. For those of us who pay particular attention to the composition of the population (because we are single-mindedly obsessed with the composition of the electorate that results), this is a bonanza of things to pore over. So let's pore.
Or, actually, let's first detour. The data collected by the Bureau has changed substantially over time, at first documenting only the white and slave populations of the newly united states. In 1820, the government started collecting data on resident foreigners as immigration increased. By 1870, the Bureau counted whites, blacks, Chinese, Indian (Native American), and people of mixed black and white descent. In 1890, it broke out mixed-race Americans into more categories; in 1930, there were 10 different options.
Today there are five categories of race, per a 1997 directive: "American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and White." There's an additional delineation of ethnicity: Hispanic or Latino, and not.
That background is useful because the Bureau's projections through 2060 includes a look at foreign-born-versus-native-born residents and Hispanic-versus-non-Hispanic residents, which are not the same thing. But we get ahead of ourselves. Back to poring.
First things first, the population is expected to increase, thanks in part to immigration.
As the decades pass, the number of births increases slightly while the number of deaths (projected!) increases more rapidly. But migration will tick upward.
That ratio is not a function of aging Baby Boomers (who, sadly, will mostly be gone in the next couple of decades). Here's the age split over time.
The population of those under 24 will increase slowly. The population of those over 45 will increase rapidly. Bear in mind that those 65 and over in 2060 are people who are 20 right now. These are the aging millennials. (Shudder.)
What's interesting is that the number of people who were born outside of the country will grow faster than the native-born population. Here's how the Census Bureau predicts the two will compare.
But contrast the curves for the much-larger native-born population ...
...with those foreign-born.
Since the foreign-born residents will have migrated into the country, fewer of them are very young.
A point of contrast: Here's what state-by-state native-versus-foreign data looked like following the 1870 Census. (It's from this terrific statistical almanac.) Note the bulge in the California data for men in their 30s and 40s. That's, in part, the Gold Rush.
Now to the charts that have transfixed American politics for the past few years. The number of Americans who identify as Hispanic will grow faster than those who do not. This includes people who are of multiple races; remember, this is an ethnic identity. The curve looks something like the foreign-versus-native chart, but the two don't overlap entirely.
It's clear, though, that the population which identifies as Hispanic will grow much more rapidly than that which does not. The Census Bureau broke out the expected growth among the two populations in five-year increments. The Hispanic population is expected to grow much faster, for some time.
What's not included here is age projections or citizenship data. How many of the foreign-born residents will be eligible to vote is not clear. But by 2060, the Census Bureau figures that 28.6 percent of the people in America will identify as Hispanic (and 18.8 percent foreign-born), compared to 17.7 percent Hispanic next year. That's the demographic wave that political watchers are keeping the closest eye on.