Saturday, July 03, 2004 > News > Nation -- Migration to fuel census growth > News > Nation -- Migration to fuel census growth
By Leonel Sanchez

March 18, 2004

Census projections released today show the nation's Hispanic and Asian populations will triple to more than 100 million and 33 million, respectively, in less than 50 years, a trend that will be fueled by high immigration and fertility rates.

"The main thing is migration. We have over a million additions to our population through migration," said Gregory Spencer, chief of the population projections branch of U.S. Census Bureau.

"When you think that many are young and of child-bearing age you can expect what's going to happen. They're going to have children and that keeps multiplying the effect."

Non-Hispanic whites will continue to be the majority of the population in 2050, but just barely, according to the census. That group, which now makes up nearly 70 percent of the population, will account for 50.1 percent.

"After 2030 all the surviving baby boomers are going to be over 65," Spencer said. "That group is disproportionately non-Hispanic white."

The number of non-Hispanic whites will increase during that period, from 195.7 million to 210.3 million, but their share of the overall population will shrink in the face of population increases among Hispanics, Asians and African-Americans.

The Latino share of the general population will nearly double, from 12.6 percent to 24.4 percent. The Asian share will rise from 3.8 percent to 8 percent and the African-American population will grow from 12.7 percent to 14.6 percent.

The overall population will increase from 282.1 million to 419.9 million, a 49 percent increase, largely because of those three groups.

The Census Bureau did not break down its population projections by states. But the San Diego Association of Governments projects that by 2030 Latinos will make up 37 percent of the county's population and non-Hispanic whites will account for 40 percent.

Immigration will continue to play a key role, said Edward Schafer, senior planner at SANDAG. "We forecast 17,000 people per year coming from outside the United States. The biggest share is from Mexico."

The nationwide census projections are being released as the debate over immigration is heating up because of an article written by a prominent Harvard professor. Samuel Huntington argues that massive emigration from Mexico, in particular, threatens to divide the United States into two cultures.

"Unlike past immigrant groups, Mexicans and other Latinos have not assimilated into mainstream U.S. culture, forming instead their own political and linguistic enclaves from Los Angeles to Miami and rejecting the Anglo-Protestant values that built the American dream," Huntington says in his soon to be released book, an excerpt of which appeared in Foreign Policy magazine this month. "The United States ignores this challenge at its own peril."

Demographers said the new census projections give some weight to Huntington's argument.

"He's right on with Mexican immigration being without any precedent in U.S. history," said Steven Camarota, an immigration researcher at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C.

"Whether it's a real threat to national cohesion that's an open question in my mind. It still might work out. One of the things that happened before is that we cut off immigration in (the early 1920s) and it remained low for five decades. That played a role in integrating and assimilating immigrants and their descendants into society."

Harry Pachon, president of the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute in Los Angeles called Huntington's thesis flawed and his research questionable because studies show that Latinos, like past immigrant groups, eventually assimilate into mainstream society.

"By the third generation, Latinos are marrying somebody who is not a Latino," Pachon said. "By the third generation, many Latinos have lost their Spanish language and are speaking mainly in English.

"They're following the same trajectory as past groups like the Italians and the Germans."

They are also meeting with the same suspicions, he added.

"There's always a reaction when one group gets large. People will always have questions: Are they really American? Are they really going to blend in? Those questions are as American as apple pie."


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