As federal lawmakers continue to debate overhauling immigration law, the Census Bureau on Wednesday released a set of population projections that highlight the effects of immigration on the U.S. economy.
The country's financial meltdown and post-Sept. 11 immigration enforcement have slowed the growth of minority groups here. If those conditions remain the norm, whites would make up the majority of the population until 2050, eight years later than previously projected.
In addition, the Census Bureau last year predicted that the U.S. would hit the 400-million population mark in 2039. But if current migration patterns continue, the nation will not have hit that milestone by 2050.
The latest numbers, which supplement the 2008 National Population Projections, reflect four immigration scenarios -- high, low, constant and zero.
A falling immigration rate means a decreased vital workforce to replace the nation's baby boomers, said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. "Young people bring new ideas, especially new people coming in from other countries," he said. "They're more globally aware of what's going on."