The Census Bureau is once again revising its U.S. population projections downward as the impact of the recession continues to dampen Americans’ desire to have babies.
The nation is projected to have 416.8 million people by 2060, 3.5 million fewer than estimated just two years ago, the Census Bureau said on Wednesday.
Projections made early last decade starkly illustrate the radical shift in population trends. In 2002 the bureau saw a nation growing to 439 million by 2050. In 2012 the forecast slipped to 400 million. Today it’s down even farther, to 398.3 million, with the 400 million mark pushed back to 2051.
“The pace of U.S. population growth is slowing, and the population continues to become more diverse,” said Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy. “This will produce a rich tapestry of demographic change in the U.S. over the next several decades.”
The non-Hispanic white population is barely growing, and today’s projections show that it will start to decline after 2025. By 2045, minorities are expected to be the majority. “The majority-minority tipping point date is 2044, one year later than in previous projections,” said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution and the author of a new book, “Diversity Explosion.”
The foreign-born population is projected to rise from 13 percent in 2015 to 19 percent in 2060. “Native-born whites become less than 50 percent before 2040,” Frey said. “Overall, there is white decline and minority gain for most of the projection period.”
From 2015 to 2060, the country will lose 23 million U.S.-born whites and gain 118 million racial and ethnic minorities and immigrants, he said. In 2060 non-Hispanic whites born in the U.S. will account for 40 percent of the population.
Whites now make up 63 percent of the population, but it’s an aging demographic, accounting for 79 percent of deaths but only 50 percent of births. In the last two years, more whites died than were born, Johnson said. “Such natural decrease is without precedent in U.S. history,” he added. “It was not expected until the 2020s.”
The Latino population is still growing rapidly but slower than had been expected before the Great Recession, also pushing population projections downward. The economic downturn slowed immigration and birth rates among Hispanics.
It’s estimated that there will be about 119 million Latinos in the U.S. in 2060, compared with 129 million under previous projections, said Mark Mather, associate vice president of U.S. program at the Population Reference Bureau.
Johnson’s previous analysis of National Center for Health Statistics data showed that 2.3 million fewer people were born in the U.S. from 2008 through 2013 than would have been born had prerecession fertility rates continued at the same rate.
The latest government statistics show the fewest U.S. births in 15 years and the lowest fertility rate ever recorded. Hispanic births dropped 14.6 percent.
And all this happened as the number of women in their prime childbearing years (20 to 39) increased by 1.6 million.
“The data suggest the impact of the recession has been particularly pronounced on younger women,” Johnson said. “That is a lot of empty maternity ward beds and will soon be a lot of empty kindergarten desks.”