The Next America
Immigration to the United States over the past 50 years has dramatically changed our country’s demographic make-up. The Pew Research Center has released the results of a massive study about America’s changing demographics and finds that we are becoming older and increasingly less white. In 1960, 85% of Americans were white, today that number is closer to 60% and by 2060 it will be only 43%. As Pew says, “We were once a black and white country. Now, we’re a rainbow.” Pew attributes this monumental shift in American society to immigration. Since 1965, over 40 million immigrants have settled in the United States, about 50% of them Hispanic and 30% Asian. Due to race based immigration quotas, before 1965 nearly 90% of immigrants were from Europe while today only 12% are.
In the past immigrants and their children have accounted for a large share of the total US population. In 1900, first and second generation immigrants made up 34% of the American population. That number dipped to a low of 16% in the early 1980s and is currently about 25%, and it is expected to climb up to 37% by 2060. While this may seem like a big surge to some, it’s really not. We’ve always been a nation of immigrants and, if anything, the mid twentieth century was an outlier.
The changes made to immigration policy in the 1960s—mainly, ending the race based quota system—have profoundly shaped our country today, especially the Millennial generation. About 40% of Millennials are non-white and many are the children of Hispanic and Asian immigrants. They are the most socially and politically liberal generation, which may be attributed to their youth but is also a result of growing up in an increasingly diverse country.
Immigrants and their children have always shaped our society, culture and politics. In the past this often stoked xenophobic fears and nativist reactions and it’s sure to stir up some now, but hopefully only at the fringes. Mainstream politics and pop culture have begun to reflect the diverse country we live and while there will always be zealots, many Americans celebrate diversity and support immigrants.