(August 2008) The U.S. population is set to reach 400 million by 2039, four years earlier than previously projected, according to new population projections from the U.S. Census Bureau. Whites are projected to drop below 50 percent of the U.S. population by 2042, according to the new data.

The United States reached 300 million people in 2006. At the time, non-Hispanic whites made up about two-thirds of the population (see Table). However, over the next several decades, there will be a sharp—and unprecedented—increase in racial and ethnic minorities, especially in the Latino population.

By the time the country reaches 400 million:

  • The white, non-Hispanic share of the population is expected to drop to 51 percent.
  • Over one in four U.S. residents is expected to be Hispanic—up from one in seven in 2006.
  • The Census Bureau projects that the number of Asians and Pacific Islanders will approach 28.3 million—more than twice their 2006 population.
  • The African American population is expected to make up 12 percent of the U.S. population—the same percentage it was when the country reached the 300 million mark.1

Natural increase (the excess of births over deaths) currently accounts for 60 percent of U.S. population growth, while net immigration makes up the other 40 percent. However, when including the children of immigrants, immigration plays a much larger role in population growth. The Pew Hispanic Center projects that new immigrants and their descendants will account for 87 percent of U.S. population growth between 2005 and 2050.2

The population in younger age groups is projected to reach majority-minority status sooner than those in older age categories, primarily because of the rapid growth in immigrant children.3 Minorities are projected to make up just over 50 percent of the population under age 18 by 2023, and 62 percent of all children by 2050.


Mark Mather is associate vice president for Domestic Programs at PRB. Kelvin Pollard is a senior demographer at the Population Reference Bureau. 


References

  1. Estimates for whites, blacks, and Asian and Pacific Islanders are for non-Hispanics and include persons who identify with only one race.
  2. Pew Hispanic Center, U.S. Population Projections: 2005-2050, accessed online at http://pewhispanic.org/files/reports/85.pdf, on August 7, 2008.
  3. Immigrant children include those who were born outside of the United States plus those who were born in the United States but have at least one foreign-born parent.