A new study shows that the United States will remain a nation of immigrants and that increasingly the new arrivals will come from Asia.
It’s the oldest of stories. Even before the United States became an independent nation, waves of immigrants helped the nation grow and enriched an American identity grounded not in blood ties but in a common understanding of life as a free people. At first the new faces arrived from different parts of England and then from Germany. Many more followed, from Ireland and from southern and eastern Europe. More recently, immigrants from Mexico and other parts of Latin America predominated. Over time, and for many reasons, one immigrant wave slows but another grows.
A new Pew Research Center study makes these predictions about future Americans:
- There will be more of them, 36 percent more, or 441 million, by 2065.
- Immigrants and their offspring will account for 88 percent of that increase.
- By 2055 there will be no racial or ethnic majority group. Whites will be 46 percent of the population, as opposed to 62 percent today.
- The number of Mexicans and other Hispanics coming to the U.S. is slowing.
- At the same time, the number of Asian Americans is rising sharply. Since 2011, Asia has been the largest source of new immigrants. By 2065, Pew projects 14 percent of Americans will be of Asian origin.
Who are the newcomers?
Today more new Americans arrive from China and India than anywhere else. In part that’s because the immigration laws were changed in 1965 to end a quota system that favored northern and western Europeans.
Another factor is education. As incomes rise in Asian nations, more young Asians choose to attend American universities. Today’s Asian immigrants, says Pew, are the most highly educated immigrant group in U.S. history. A visa program enacted in 1990 created new opportunities for skilled workers. Immigrants from China, the Philippines, India, Vietnam, the Republic of Korea and Japan in particular have obtained employment-based green cards, which confer permanent-resident status and the opportunity to obtain citizenship.
Many Asian immigrants have embraced their new nation’s entrepreneurial spirit, starting and running businesses at a faster clip than most previous groups.
Indian native Yogen Kapadia followed this path. After earning a U.S. master’s degree in computer science, Kapadia worked for high-tech companies in California’s Silicon Valley. “The Valley breaks all prejudices and nurtures only the singular thing that innovation needs: an open mind,” he says. He chose to stay, and to become an American citizen. In 2011 Kapadia launched his own business, and he promises it will “revolutionize” online document management.
Not every newcomer will run a business. Some will succeed greatly, whatever their dreams; others will struggle. But all will enjoy the liberties that belong to every American, and all will contribute new chapters to America’s oldest story.