Mario Garrett, Sign On San Diego, August 16, 2011
By 2050, minorities will account for 54 percent of the U.S. population. Today, those Americans who identify themselves as Hispanic, Black, Asian, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander or mixed race account for 34 percent. Among the nation’s children, ethnic diversity will be even more pronounced–jumping from 44 percent today to 62 percent by 2050. It will no longer be accurate to refer to these ethnically diverse groups as minorities.
Immigration plays a leading role in both the growth and changing composition of the U.S. population. Immigration is the single reason why the United States has not aged as fast as most European countries.
The Pew Research Center finds that immigrants and their descendants will account for 82 percent of the projected population increase from 2005 to 2050. Nearly 20 percent of Americans will be foreign-born in 2050, compared with 12 percent in 2005, the Center projects. On the other side of the age continuum, by 2050 one in five people will be 65 and older and 59 percent of those will be white. That same year, when 19 million people will be age 85 and older, 67 percent of them will be white.
These changes signal that America is changing color while aging. Although older adults are becoming more diverse, for the next four decades, we will have a predominantly white older group, and a predominantly ethnically diverse younger group following. This seems to create social tension, especially when older adults express less tolerant views of an ethnically diverse population.
A popular view holds that older adults hold more narrow views than younger adults because they grew up in a less tolerant era. However, recent research shows that–even though they might have ethnic biases–older adults are less able to regulate associations. For older adults, implicit racial biases–which we all have–are likely to be acted upon.