How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Report: Children of immigrants driving not just growth, but politics

Source: Pew Research Center

By 2050, the percentage of immigrants and children of immigrants in the nation's population is expected to top what it was in 1900, during the last great wave of immigration to the U.S.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a large chunk of the U.S. population was comprised of the second-generation children of immigrants, most of them from Europe. Today, the second generation is on the rise once more, this time the result of a post-1965 wave of migration that has come predominantly from Latin America and Asia. 

These children of immigrants have driven U.S. population growth in recent years. And as they go, politically, educationally and otherwise, so goes the nation, a new Pew Research Center report reveals.

The report released today focuses on the 20 million adult members of the second generation, not including under-18 children of immigrants. This is a diverse group, with no single racial majority. Seven out of 10 of them are either Latino or Asian, but they also include black and non-Latino white children of immigrants. Of the latter group, many are the older adult children of European immigrants who arrived during the last great migration wave.

In general, the adult American second generation earns more on average than did its immigrant parents, on par with the overall U.S. population. They also are more likely to be homeowners than their parents were, also right along with the general population.

However, second-generation children are more likely to have gone to college: Of those 25 and older, 36 percent of adult second-generation Americans are college graduates, compared with 31 percent of the general population. 

How they vote is especially interesting: Second-generation Americans are far more likely to call themselves liberal than conservative. Only 19 percent of Latinos, and 32 percent of Asians, identify as Republicans, something that has vast implications for the GOP as the party struggles to appeal to a growing non-white electorate.

These children of immigrants will not only be casting votes - they'll be powering the economic engine. The report predicts that by 2050, first-generation immigrants and their second-generation children will account for 36.9 percent of the U.S. population. By then, these two groups are expected to make up almost all of the growth in the nation's workforce. From the report:

Given current immigration trends and birth rates, virtually all (93%) of the growth of the nation's working-age population between now and 2050 will be accounted for by immigrants and their U.S.-born children, according to a population projection by the Pew Research Center. 

By then, the nation's "immigrant stock" (first and second generations combined, adults and children combined) could grow from 76 million now to more than 160 million, at which point it would comprise a record share (37%) of the U.S. population.

This will be pushed along by an additional 16 million second-generation Americans who are now under 18.

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