In a major shift in immigration patterns over the next 50 years, Asians will have surged past Hispanics to become the largest group of immigrants heading to the United States, according to estimates in a new immigration study.
The study looks in detail at what will happen by 2065, but the actual tipping point comes in 2055.
An increase in Asian and Hispanic immigration also will drive U.S. population growth, with foreign-born residents expected to make up 18 percent of the country's projected 441 million people in 50 years, the Pew Research Center said in a report being released Monday. This will be a record, higher than the nearly 15 percent during the late 19th century and early 20th century wave of immigration from Europe.
Today, immigrants make up 14 percent of the population, an increase from 5 percent in 1965.
The actual change is expected to come in 2055, when Asians will become the largest immigrant group at 36 percent, compared with Hispanics at 34 percent. White immigrants to America, 80 percent back in 1965, will hover somewhere between 18 and 20 percent with black immigrants in the 8 percent to 9 percent range, the study said.
Currently, 47 percent of immigrants living in the United States are Hispanic, but by 2065 that number will have dropped to 31 percent. Asians currently make up 26 percent of the immigrant population but in 50 years that percentage is expected to increase to 38 percent.
Pew researchers analyzed a combination of Census Bureau information and its own data to develop its projections.
Part of the reason for the shift is that the fertility rate of women in Latin America and especially Mexico has decreased, said Mark Hugo Lopez, Pew's director of Hispanic research. In Mexico, Lopez said, women are now having around two children, when back in the 1960s and 1970s, they were having about seven children per woman.
"There are relatively fewer people who would choose to migrate from Mexico so demographic changes in Mexico have led to a somewhat smaller pool of potential migrants," he said. "At the same time we've seen a growing number of immigrants particularly from China or India who are coming for reasons such as pursuing a college degree or coming here to work temporarily in the high-tech sector."
Despite the increase in Asian immigrants, Hispanics will still make up a larger number inside the United States, Lopez said.
"Hispanic population growth is coming from people born here in the United States," he said. "It is really U.S. births that are now the driver of Hispanic population growth, and that's a recent change from what we saw in the '80s and '90s."
By 2065, no racial or ethnic group will hold a majority in the United States, with whites holding 46 percent of the population, Hispanics at 24 percent, Asians at 14 percent and blacks at 13 percent. Currently, the country is 62 percent white, 18 percent Hispanic, 12 percent black and 6 percent Asian.
Pew also asked Americans surveyed for one word to describe immigrants in the U.S. today. Twelve percent said "illegal," ''overpopulation" was at 5 percent, "legality (other than illegal)" at 4 percent, and "jobs," ''deportation," ''Americans" and "work ethic" at 3 percent each. Forty-nine percent offered general descriptions, and of those 12 percent were positive, 11 percent negative and 26 percent neutral, according to the report.
Americans also said immigrants are likely to make the United States better, with 45 percent agreeing with that statement and 37 percent saying they make the country worse. Eighteen said they don't have much of an effect one way or the other.
The survey was conducted online from March 10 to April 6, 2015. The survey's margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.4 percentage points.
Jesse J. Holland covers race, ethnicity and demographics for The Associated Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jessejholland or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jessejholland.