A new report by the U.S. Census Bureau examines the impact of different levels of immigration on the growth, age and racial diversity of the U.S. work force.
The report concedes, “International migration is difficult to project because political and economic conditions are nearly impossible to anticipate, yet factor heavily into migration movements into and out of a country. While we make no attempt to predict future policy or economic cycles, we do recognize the uncertainty surrounding migration and the impact that different migration outcomes could have on the future population.” Therefore, the Bureau “produced three alternate sets of projections that use the same methodology and assumptions for fertility, mortality, and emigration but differ in the levels of immigration that they assume: high, low, and zero immigration.”
The report’s summary stated, “Higher international immigration over the next four decades would produce a faster growing, more diverse, and younger population for the United States. In contrast, an absence of migration into the country over this same period would result in a U.S. population that is smaller than the present.”
“Beyond influencing the number of people in the population, immigration patterns over the next four decades will also shape the racial and ethnic composition of the population. In 2016, Asians were the fastest-growing racial group in the nation, and immigration was the primary driver behind the growth in this group. If immigration increases, the Asian alone population could grow by as much as 162 percent between 2016 and 2060 and go from 5.7 percent of the total U.S. population to 10.8 percent. The future size of this population is particularly sensitive to immigration. Under a scenario with no immigration, the Asian alone population in the United States would decline over time, representing just 4.5 percent of the total population in 2060.”
“Regardless of immigration, the population is expected to continue to age between now and 2060. Low fertility rates coupled with large cohorts of baby boomers reaching their ‘golden years’ are expected to shift the age distribution of the population so that the share of the population aged 65 and older exceeds the share of the population under the age of 18. The timing of this shift, however, will vary depending on the amount of immigration that occurs. High immigration levels will delay this milestone more than a decade relative to scenarios with lower levels of migration.”
“Over the next four decades, the population is expected to increase from its 2016 level in two out of the three alternative scenarios. In the high scenario, the population will increase by 124 million, reaching 447 million in 2060. In the low scenario, the 2060 population is projected to be 376 million, representing an increase of 53 million people. Under a zero immigration scenario, the population is projected to increase until 2035, at which point the population would peak at 333 million. After that, the population is projected to decline through 2060, when it could reach a low of 320 million.”
“The share of the population that is White alone is projected to decline in all scenarios of population projections between 2016 and 2060. For the high, middle, and low scenarios, the number of residents classified as White alone actually increases from the 2016 values, but these increases are outpaced by increases in the other racial and ethnic groups. “
“The population aged 65 and older is projected to surpass the population under the age of 18 in size in all immigration scenarios. The date at which this occurs is earliest in the zero immigration scenario (2029), followed by the low immigration scenario (2031), and then the high (2045). By 2030, more than 20 percent of the U.S. population will be aged 65 and older. In the high scenario, this milestone is reached in 2028. For the low scenario, it occurs in 2026; and in 2025 for the zero scenario.”
William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, reviewed the report and concluded, “We desperately need immigration to keep our country growing and prosperous.The reason we have a good growth rate in comparison to other developed countries in the world is because we’ve had robust immigration for the last 30 to 40 years.”
 U.S. Census Bureau, A Changing Nation: Population Projections Under Alternative Migration Scenarios (Feb. 13, 2020); Lang, U.S. population will decline faster without steady immigration, Census report says, Wash. Post (Feb. 13, 2020).
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