But if immigration were to merely slow down, rather than stop, non-Hispanic whites, who now account for nearly two-thirds of the population, would become a minority by 2050, according to the projections. If the pace of immigration increases, that benchmark could be reached as early as 2040.
Depending on the pace of international migration, the nation’s population, 308 million currently, could grow to as much as 458 million by midcentury, with immigrants accounting for up to 136 million of the increase.
Since 2000, the nation’s population has been growing by just under one million immigrants annually. The bureau’s lower estimates assume a range of 1.1 million to 1.8 million; the higher estimates range from 1.5 million to 2.4 million.
Even if no new immigrants arrived, said William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution, the Hispanic share of the population would rise from about 14 percent in 2010 to between 21 percent (with no further immigration) and 31 percent (with the highest projected immigration) in 2050.
Similarly, without any immigration, minorities would still constitute a majority of the population under age 5 in 2050, because of higher birth rates among Hispanic people already living here. If immigration continues, black, Hispanic and Asian children will become a majority of young children sometime between 2019 and 2023, according to the latest projections.
People 65 and over would constitute more than one in five Americans by midcentury under all of the projections except for zero immigration.
Without immigration, the nation’s labor force would decline by 7 million people, mostly between 2015 and 2035, as baby boomers start to retire. Continuing immigration would add between 31 million and 64 million people to the labor force.
“The availability of work in agriculture, construction, and manufacturing has attracted millions of low-skilled workers from Latin America, especially Mexico,” said Mark Mather, the associate vice president for domestic programs of the Population Reference Bureau. “However, immigration levels have dropped since the onset of the recession, mostly due to a decline in new arrivals, rather than immigrants returning to their home countries.”
He estimated that natural increase — births over deaths — has accounted for two-thirds of the nation’s population growth in the past few years. Without any further immigration, deaths would begin to exceed births around 2048.
Depending on the extent of immigration, the country’s population could reach 400 million as early as 2035. Without immigration, growth would stall at about 322 million after 2040.