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Census: Slower rate of immigration to lead to older population in 2060

When it comes to the strides made in immigration reform, 2012 will be remembered for many positive things. Most notably was the implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken advantage of it, enabling them to continue to send money home to their families.

The program may have come just in time, too, as new projections indicate that the rate of immigration has slowed.

According to recent statistics cited by The Economist magazine, the Census Bureau projects the U.S. population will grow from its current 311 million to 400 million by 2050. While this may seem like a dramatic increase, it's considerably less than what the Census predicted in 2008. The anticipated 27 percent jump in the U.S. population is 9 percent less than what was forecasted in 2008.

The reason for the slowdown, according to officials with the Census, is the reduced rate of immigration, not to mention people who are having children of their own. As a result, the U.S. population will be much older. For example, the Census says that the population of individuals who are 65 and older will double between now and 2060, going from its current 43 million to 92 million.

While there are a number of reasons for the projected slowdown in population and the rate of immigration, experts on the topic say that the down economy serves as the main reason. The magazine notes that because child-rearing can be expensive, many people are delaying having children of their own, leading experts to question how robust the U.S. population will be 50 years from now. At the same time, however, once the economy more fully recovers, so too should the birth rate.

One in three Americans to be Hispanic by 2060
These numbers shouldn't suggest that the Hispanic population will make up a smaller share of the U.S. citizenry, though. The Census Bureau indicates that the Latino community will likely peak in 2060 at 129 million from its current 53 million. This means that in 50 years from now, one in three U.S. residents will be of Hispanic descent from today's one in every six.

Still, the most significant finding to take away from the Census Bureau's report, experts say, is the number of people that will be older than 65. This will be found particularly among those who are 85 years and older – the group the Census Bureau refers to as the "oldest old." In this segment of the U.S. population, the number is expected to grow from 5.9 million today to 18.2 million in 2060. This means that 4.3 percent of the total population will be older than 85 years of age at this time.

As recent immigrants may already be aware, the typical age at which people in the U.S. retire from their jobs is 65. After this age, they're usually eligible for certain government benefits, such as Social Security and Medicare. These programs rely on taxes from the U.S. working force. And because there will be a greater number of people eligible for these benefits, the country will need to rely on new Americans to contribute.

The Immigration Policy Center predicts that with the U.S. economy increasingly relying on younger workers and taxpayers, legislators may focus on immigration reform so that more people can gain citizenship.

"First, immigration fuels more than two-fifths of U.S. population growth, and immigrants tend to be younger than the native-born population," the IPC says. "Second, immigrant communities tend to have higher birth rates, so they comprise a disproportionately large share of the next generation of workers. It is this combination of continued immigration and high fertility that explains the rapidly rising number of young Latinos in the U.S. population and labor force."

If 2013 is any indication of how 2012 was, however, there will likely be other favorable immigration developments in the months ahead. 

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