The Problem with Projections
Future of Immigration Much More Asian Than You Think

New research from the Pew Foundation indicates the future of immigration to the U.S. is shifting even more toward Asia than had previous been expected. The Financial Times reports.

The research finds that the driver of US population growth over the next five decades will be immigration from Asian countries such as China, India, Korea and the Philippines, with the expansion overtaking arrivals of Hispanics.

By 2065, Asians are projected to become the largest immigrant group, at 38 per cent of the immigrant population, surpassing Hispanics, at 31 per cent. Overall, the immigrant population will reach 78m by 2065, compared with 45m today, with a growth rate double that of the US-born population.

So almost as soon as it was supposed to have begun, the Hispanic term as the largest minority in the U.S. may be at an end. These figures have ramifications from electoral politics (Republicans in particular, who lag behind on Asians even when other demographic factors say they shouldn’t, should seriously start considering how to appeal to these constituencies) through to policy decisions on schooling, visas, and much more besides.

But if there is one thing we know for sure, it is that long term immigration forecasts are usually deeply wrong. Along those lines, some of the assumptions underlying the Pew study need to be questioned. Chief among them are the straight-line nature of its projections:

The report from the Pew Research Center finds that foreign-born individuals and their children will comprise 36 per cent of the US population by 2065, higher than the peaks reached at the beginning of the 20th century and up from 26 per cent now. The ranks of foreign-born individuals alone will also rise to a record.[..]

The Pew projections extrapolate from recent migration trends, and so are susceptible to unexpected changes in US economic fortunes and legislation, as well as those of other big countries.

The last time immigration went this high, as Nicholas M. Gallagher has written in these pages, the public insisted on tough immigration quotas that remained in place for decades. It would be foolish for anyone to make policy assumptions based on the U.S. hitting 150% of current immigration levels without predicting other major changes in the political sphere, whatever form those might take.

The new data indicates that the future is very much up for grabs. But the one thing we know about immigration patters is that… they change.

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