October 10, 2006

From 200 Million to 300 Million: The Numbers behind Population Growth

Fact Sheet

The U.S. population will reach 300 million some time this month. This fact sheet presents an analysis, by race/ethnicity and nativity, of the 100 million people who were added to the population since 1966-67. In addition, the fact sheet breaks down the U.S. population, again by race/ethnicity and nativity, when it was 200 million and at the 300 million mark.

From 200 Million to 300 Million

The U.S. population reached 200 million in the mid to late 1960s. At that time, the U.S. population was 84% white, 11% black, 4% Hispanic and 1% Asian and Pacific Islander.1

Between 1966 and 2006 the U.S. population grew by 100 million,2 the net effect of births and deaths, immigration and emigration. A number of diverse factors determined the rate of growth, ranging from changes in U.S. immigration law in 1965, 1986 and 1990 to steady improvements in life expectancy and to decreasing fertility levels.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center’s population estimates and projections, the Hispanic population increased from 8.5 million in 1966-67 to 44.7 million today. Latinos accounted for 36% of the 100 million added to the population in the last four decades, the most of any racial or ethnic group. Immigration from Latin America and relatively high fertility rates among Latinos were major factors in this increase. The white population grew from 167.2 million in 1966-67 to 201.0 million today. That represented 34% of the 100 million added since 1966-67.

The black population increased from 22.3 million to 38.7 million and accounted for about 16% of the population growth, according to the estimates. The Asian and Pacific Islander population increased from 1.5 million to about 14.3 million, representing about 13% of the increase.

Immigration

Immigrants and their U.S.-born offspring accounted for 55% of the increase in population since 1966-67.3 Within this group of 55 million, Latino immigrants and their offspring were by far the largest, representing about 29 million persons, or 53% of the addition due to immigration, according to the Center’s estimates.

About 12 million Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants and their offspring were added to the population, representing about 22% of the increase due to immigration. The white immigrant population and its offspring increased by approximately 10 million (18%) while the black immigrant population and its offspring increased by almost four million (7%).

Immigrants were far more numerous than their U.S.-born offspring. Of the 55 million in this immigrant-stock population, about 35 million, or 63%, were immigrants. The U.S.-born offspring numbered about 21 million, or 37%.

That trend prevailed among all racial and ethnic groups. Of the 29 million Latinos added due to post-1966 immigration, 17 million were immigrants and 12 million were their U.S.-born offspring, according to the Pew estimates. Among whites, about 6 million were immigrants and 4 million were their offspring. Among blacks, 3 million were immigrants and 1 million were their offspring. And among Asian and Pacific Islanders, about 9 million were immigrants and 3 million were their offspring.

Among Hispanics, growth attributable to immigration represents 66% of the 2006 population. The highest growth rate was among Asian and Pacific Islander, where 85% of the 2006 population was attributable to immigration. Among whites and blacks the share of the 2006 population attributable to immigration was much smaller (5% and 10% respectively).

  1. Race groups are for persons not of Hispanic origin.
  2. The actual date depends on a number of assumptions about immigration and population growth during the 1960s. For the purposes of this analysis, the assumption is that the population reached 200 million in October, 1966.
  3. Offspring refers to the U.S.-born children of immigrants and their children. Measuring the contribution of immigrants and their U.S.-born offspring to the last 100 million in population increase involves doing a counterfactual population projection from 1966 to 2006 using the historical levels of fertility and mortality for each race/ethnic group by nativity but setting the level of post-1966 immigration to zero. The difference between this counterfactual projection for 2006 and the actual population is the contribution of immigrants and their offspring.