America’s changing face

D’Vera Cohn and Jeffery Passel authored a new Pew Hispanic Center study projecting U.S. population growth for the next four decades. At the end of their press conference announcing the findings, they declined to draw conclusions from their report.

That is not a constraint here.

However, they did slip in a suggestion that high intermarriage rates among Latinos and other ethnic groups may find that Latinos no longer identify as such.

Cohn and Passel project the total U.S. population will increase nearly 50 percent by 2050, from 300 million today to 438 million. Newly arriving immigrants will account for 47 percent of the growth, while their children and grandchildren will be responsible for 35 percent.

Latinos, now 14 percent of the national total, and already the largest so-called “minority” group, will increase to 29 percent.

Non-Hispanic whites will also become a minority, or 47 percent.

Blacks are expected to remain at 13 percent.

While immigrants today are one in eight of the nation’s population, the ratio will become one in five.

Cohn and Passel’s findings are in line with projections made since 1990 about the expected fast Hispanic demographic growth. However, more significant might be the social and cultural changes coming to the general population.

A 2003 study by Roberto Suro and Passel reported that first-generation Latinos, like other immigrants, tend to marry within their ethnic/racial group. Only about 8 percent of foreign-born Hispanics marry outside the group. But not so those who follow. Thirty-two percent of the second-generation and 57 percent of the third-plus generations are projected to intermarry.

The greatest change as we morph into 2050 may not be in ethnic, racial or other groupings. Instead, the biggest changes may come from how popular thinking is tweaked. Racial stigmas, evident since the 1920s, are now taking their last death gasps.

Most prejudicial racial and ethnocentric attitudes will not survive the trip to 2050.

The reason? Negative attitudes against ethnic groups will increasingly apply to one’s own family or circle of friends. Racists (overt and covert) are the dinosaurs of the current age.

A broader notion about national identity will probably emerge. A more open society, even an international one, will become the predominant ideology.

We talk that way now, but we will become it in the next period.

To get some perspective on the road ahead, it’s helpful to imagine what 2050 will look like. Imagine today is 1960. Then think about each and every milestone and setback from 1960 to today. Then multiply that by two or three to account for the wind-sheer acceleration we get from knowledge and experience.

Welcome to 2050.

(Jose de la Isla writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. He is author of “The Rise of Hispanic Political Power.” E-mail joseisla3(at)