For decades, it has been reported that the Hispanic population will be dominant within the U.S. by 2050. Now, according to a new study of census data, Asians are likely to surpass Latinos as the nation's largest immigrant group. The population surge is predicted shortly after the middle of the century, within just a few years of Hispanics becoming the number one group in size.
Researchers say the wave of new arrivals from Latin America has slowed, but trans-Pacific migration continues to expand.
According to the study by the Pew Research Center, which has tracked the effects of immigration on the country's population for the last several decades, immigrants are likely to make up 88% of the country's population growth over the next 50 years, The foreign-born, who made up just 5% of the nation's population in 1965, make up 14% today, the study found. They are projected to be 18% of the population by 2065.
Going by these numbers, Hispanics are expected to be the most populous group in the U.S. for just 15 years before being outnumbered by Asians. Unlike the Latino population, which mostly shares a common language, Spanish, and many cultural traits, the census category of Asian takes in a vast array of ethnic and language groups, including Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos, Indians and Pakistanis.
Asian Americans currently make up about 6% of the nation's population. By the middle of the century they will total a projected 14%.
Asians are expected to constitute 36% of the immigrant population by 2055, surpassing Latinos, who by then will be 34% of immigrants, the study indicates. Since many Latinos are third- or fourth-generation Americans, they will remain a larger share of the total population, close to one-quarter of all Americans by midcentury.
Pew revealed that Asian immigrants are generally viewed more favorably than Latinos by other Americans. Nearly half of American adults (47%) said immigrants from Asia have had a mostly positive effect on American society. Only 26% said the same about immigrants from Latin America, with 37% saying they thought the effects of Latin American immigration had been mostly negative. Immigrants from the Middle East fared worse in public opinion, with just 20% saying their effect on the country has been mostly positive, and 39% saying their impact has been mostly negative.
The survey found that 59% of Americans said immigrants, overall, were not learning English in a reasonable amount of time.
The Pew study was designed to look at how immigration has changed the racial and ethnic makeup of the U.S. since Congress passed the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act. That law abolished a quota system based on national origin, which had barred most immigrants from outside of Western Europe and led to a sharp increase in immigration from Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Questions were asked about immigration generally, regardless of whether immigrants are in the U.S. legally or illegally. Factors like age, race, education and political views have a significant bearing on how positively or negatively immigrants are viewed, and can provide a glimpse into future race relations.
Today, 62% of Americans are non-Latino whites, the report found. That's down from 85% in 1965.
Among Democrats, 55% said immigrants were making American society better in the long run, while 24% said immigrants were making things worse. About 53% of Republicans said immigrants were making American society worse in the long run, and 31% said they were making things better.
Younger Americans were more likely to see immigration as a positive thing, due to greater ethnic diversity among their peers. Pew found 54% of Americans younger than 30 saw immigration as making the country better, while 27% said it was making the country worse. Those 65 and older split, 39% to 39%.
The report also found that immigrants are more educated now. In 2013, almost half of all new arrivals from Mexico age 25 or older had completed high school. More than 1 in 8 had a bachelor's degree.
Among Asian immigrants, 57% of those age 25 or older who arrived in 2013 had a bachelor's degree.