Modern Immigration Wave Brings 59 Million to U.S., Driving Population Growth and Change Through 2065

PH_2015-09-28_immigration-through-2065-09

Source: Pew Research Center

Views of Immigration’s Impact on U.S. Society Mixed

U.S. Foreign-Born Share Projected to Hit Record Milestone by 2065Fifty years after passage of the landmark law that rewrote U.S. immigration policy, nearly 59 million immigrants have arrived in the United States, pushing the country’s foreign-born share to a near record 14%. For the past half-century, these modern-era immigrants and their descendants have accounted for just over half the nation’s population growth and have reshaped its racial and ethnic composition.

Looking ahead, new Pew Research Center U.S. population projections show that if current demographic trends continue, future immigrants and their descendants will be an even bigger source of population growth. Between 2015 and 2065, they are projected to account for 88% of the U.S. population increase, or 103 million people, as the nation grows to 441 million.

These are some key findings of a new Pew Research analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data and new Pew Research U.S. population projections through 2065, which provide a 100-year look at immigration’s impact on population growth and on racial and ethnic change. In addition, this report uses newly released Pew Research survey data to examine U.S. public attitudes toward immigration, and it employs census data to analyze changes in the characteristics of recently arrived immigrants and paint a statistical portraitof the historical and 2013 foreign-born populations.

Immigrants and Their Descendants Accounted for 72 Million in U.S. Population Growth from 1965 to 2015; Projected to Account for 103 Million More by 2065

Post-1965 Immigration Drives U.S. Population Growth Through 2065

Immigration since 1965 has swelled the nation’s foreign-born population from 9.6 million then to a record 45 million in 2015.1 (The current immigrant population is lower than the 59 million total who arrived since 1965 because of deaths and departures from the U.S.)2By 2065, the U.S. will have 78 million immigrants, according to the new Pew Research population projections.

The nation’s immigrant population increased sharply from 1970 to 2000, though the rate of growth has slowed since then. Still, the U.S. has—by far—the world’s largest immigrant population, holding about one-in-five of the world’s immigrants (Connor, Cohn and Gonzalez-Barrera, 2013).

Between 1965 and 2015, new immigrants, their children and their grandchildren accounted for 55% of U.S. population growth. They added 72 million people to the nation’s population as it grew from 193 million in 1965 to 324 million in 2015.

U.S. Foreign-Born Population Reached 45 Million in 2015, Projected to Reach 78 Million by 2065This fast-growing immigrant population also has driven the share of the U.S. population that is foreign born from 5% in 1965 to 14% today and will push it to a projected record 18% in 2065. Already, today’s 14% foreign-born share is a near historic record for the U.S., just slightly below the 15% levels seen shortly after the turn of the 20th century. The combined population share of immigrants and their U.S.-born children, 26% today, is projected to rise to 36% in 2065, at least equaling previous peak levels at the turn of the 20th century.

The 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act made significant changes to U.S. immigration policy by sweeping away a long-standing national origins quota system that favored immigrants from Europe and replacing it with one that emphasized family reunification and skilled immigrants. At the time, relatively few anticipated the size or demographic impact of the post-1965 immigration flow (Gjelten, 2015). In absolute numbers, the roughly 59 million immigrants who arrived in the U.S. between 1965 and 2015 exceed those who arrived in the great waves of European-dominated immigration during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Between 1840 and 1889, 14.3 million immigrants came to the U.S., and between 1890 and 1919, an additional 18.2 million arrived (see Table 1 for details).

After the replacement of the nation’s European-focused origin quota system, greater numbers of immigrants from other parts of the world began to come to the U.S. Among immigrants who have arrived since 1965, half (51%) are from Latin America and one-quarter are from Asia. By comparison, both of the U.S. immigration waves in the mid-19th century and early 20th century consisted almost entirely of European immigrants.

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