- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 18, 2004

Hispanic and Asian populations in the United States will triple by 2050, when whites will be about half of the total U.S. population, according to projections released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Overall, U.S. population is projected to grow about 49 percent by mid-century, increasing from a current level of about 283 million, to 420 million.

The census projection says the white U.S. population will grow about 7 percent in absolute numbers (from 196 million to 210 million) by 2050, even as whites decline as a percentage of the total population from about 69 percent now to 50 percent at mid-century.

Meanwhile, the nation’s Hispanic population will increase 194 percent, according to the census study, from a current figure of 35 million to 103 million in 2050.

Immigration has been a chief cause of growth for the U.S. Hispanic population, but arrivals from abroad are declining as the primary factor in the group’s increase, census officials say. Next year, for example, Hispanic population is projected to increase by more than 1.1 million, but immigration will account for just 35 percent of that growth.

“The Hispanic increase comes mostly from a natural increase of the number of people in child-bearing years and a higher birth rate,” said Greg Spencer, chief of the population projections branch at the U.S. Census Bureau.

Hispanic women during their lifetimes “have an average of three children as opposed to an average of two for other groups.”

By comparison, about 60 percent of next year’s 400,000-person increase in the Asian population will come through immigration, according to the census projection.

The census study also predicts:

The nation’s Asian population, currently at 11 percent, will grow 213 percent to 33 million by 2050, and its share of U.S. population would increase from 4 percent to 8 percent.

The black population would rise from 35 million to 61 million, or 71 percent by 2050, as the black share of the U.S. total grows from 13 percent of the population to 15 percent.

By 2030, one in five persons in the United States will be 65 or older.

“What says is that we are going to become more diverse and get older and baby boomers will swell the aging population,” census spokesman Mike Bergman said of the bureau’s latest projections.

An easing of overall growth is predicted by 2030. After that year, the rate of population increase is predicted to slow to levels that will be lower than at any time since the Great Depression.

“The age structure will become different, and things will slow down,” Mr. Spencer said.

Currently, Mr. Spencer noted, whites are a minority in three states: Hawaii, which is predominantly Asian and about 23 percent white; California, with large Hispanic and Asian groups and 46.7 percent white; and New Mexico, with a population that is 42 percent Hispanic and less than 45 percent white.

By 2050, however, America’s current system of racial classification is likely to be revamped, as more ethnic and racial groups intermarry and have children, said demographer Jeff Passel at the Urban Institute.

“A hundred years ago, groups like Italians, Jews and Poles were classified as racial groups,” Mr. Passel said. “Now those people are all white, and they have intermarried. So I look at the way things are now, for example, a third of Latinos are married to non-Latinos, and we don’t know what their children are going to call themselves.”

He added that the effect on culture will be just as gradual.

“There was also this great fear back then that these new groups would not become American,” he said. “But now, you can buy a bagel in any town in the U.S. It is no longer thought of as an ethnic food, nor is pizza. But it was.”

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