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An older, more Hispanic America — and a declining population? That's what the Census now projects

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The U.S. Census projects that more than a quarter of the population in the United States could be Hispanic by 2060.

The United States’ population will become much older within a few decades — and ultimately will decline. And more than a quarter of the population will be Hispanic. That’s according to new projections released by the U.S. Census Bureau at midnight Thursday.

“We’re projecting slower growth than we had predicted in our last set of population projections, which was [released] by the Census Bureau in 2017,” said Sandra Johnson, chief of the Population, Evaluation, Analysis and Projections Branch at the Census Bureau.

Johnson said the bureau projects the U.S. population will peak at around 370 million people in 2080 before dropping to 366 million people in the 2100.

Since releasing the last set of projections in 2017, Johnson said fertility has declined and deaths increased during the COVID pandemic.

“The declines in fertility that have persisted for decades are likely going to continue into the future….so that does contribute to the decline in growth in the population over time.” she said.

What does the decline in fertility mean for the overall population? Johnson said that means the country will have more adults 65 and older versus children under the age of 18.

“The share of the population in that older group surpasses that of the younger group in 2029 and by [the year] 2100, 29.1% of the population is projected to be aged 65 or older, compared to just 16.4% of the population under age 18,” Johnson said.

A larger share of older adults in the future could have significant implications in areas like health care and the labor force.

Another expected shift in the population will be the racial and the ethnic makeup of the country. The Census projects the number of non-Hispanic whites will decline to 44.9% of the population in 2060 while the share of Hispanics is projected to increase to 26.9% of the population. The non-Hispanic Black population is projected to remain constant at around 13% in 2060.

“For the Hispanic population, we’re projecting that they’re going to grow through natural increase, which is the difference between births and deaths — so more births than deaths,” Johnson said.

The Census released four sets of population projections. It identifies one of those as the most likely outcome. The other three projections are based on different scenarios — high international immigration, low international immigration and zero immigration.

Johnson said fertility and mortality can change in predictable ways over time, but immigration patterns are more complicated.

“There are a lot of factors that influence foreign-born immigration and those are very difficult to predict in the long run,” Johnson said. “By having these different scenarios, it gives us a range of possible outcomes for the future.”

Those factors could include economic or political instability, war, climate change and immigration policies here in the U.S.

In 2022, foreign-born residents made up 13.9% of the U.S. population. The Census projects that will increase to 19.5% in 2100. Under the high immigration scenario, foreign born residents would make up 24.4% of the total population while under the low immigration scenario, the foreign-born population would increase to 14.9%.

Got a tip? Email Stella M. Chávez at schavez@kera.org. You can follow Stella on Twitter @stellamchavez.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gifttoday. Thank you.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.