by Haya El Nasser and Paul Overberg, USA TODAY
The Great Recession may be over but the repercussions will echo for decades by braking the nation's population growth and steering it on an unprecedented path, the Census Bureau predicted Wednesday.
Fewer immigrants and fewer babies -- a decline caused largely by the poor economy and high unemployment -- are shifting the shape of the nation's population: It will be older and smaller than had been predicted just four years ago.
By 2050, the nation is projected to have 399.8 million people -- 39 million fewer than the previous predictions during the recession in 2008. The country will now reach the 400 million milestone in 2051 or 12 years later than previously projected, the Census Bureau said.
"The United States is on a new demographic trajectory," says Mark Mather, demographer at the Population Reference Bureau. "The decline in immigration dampens U.S. population growth in two ways. Fewer immigrants means there are fewer new residents. ... But the decline in immigration also reduces the number of potential births."
Diversity will continue to rise, a trend led by children. By 2019 -- four years earlier than expected -- no single racial or ethnic group under 18 will be a majority, says William Frey, demographer at the Brookings Institution.
The nation as a whole will reach that point in 2043, a year later than earlier projected.
"The U.S. will become a plurality nation where the non-Hispanic white population remains the largest single group but no group is in the majority," says Acting Census Bureau Director Thomas Mesenbourg.
"The change is coming much faster for kids than the country as a whole," says Kenneth Johnson, demographer at the University of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute. "It's not just because the minority population of children is growing but also because the number of white children is diminishing."
Much of the minority increases come from births rather than migration, he says.
Shape of the nation in 2060, according to government projections:
The population 65 and older will double to 92 million or one in five residents. The "oldest old" 85 and over will more than triple to 18.2 million.
In just eight years, there will be more elderly (65 plus) than schoolchildren. By 2060, the older will outnumber the young for the first time in U.S. history.
Baby Boomers will slowly fade away. In 2060, when the youngest would be 96, they will number just 2.4 million compared with more than 76 million now.
Whites who are not Hispanic will peak in 2024 at about 200 million and will be the only major racial or ethnic group to decline after that. Their numbers are expected to fall more than 20 million from 2024 to 2060.
The number of Hispanics will more than double from about 53 million to almost 129 million. Nearly one in three Americans would be Hispanic compared to about one in six today. Asians will more than double too, reaching 34.4 million.
The black population will increase from 41 million to about 62 million. Blacks' share of the population will inch up from 13.1% to 14.7%.
Despite the slowdown in population gains -- annual growth is expected to drop from almost 1% in 2010 to 0.77% in just three years -- Mather does not expect the U.S. population to decline this century.
"We're nowhere near Japan or some of the other countries with low fertility rates," he says. "But these numbers show we are headed in that direction."
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