By Suzannah Gonzales
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Immigrants and their descendants will drive U.S. population growth over the next half century, transforming the country into one where no racial or ethnic group is a majority, a Pew Research Center report released on Monday said.
If current trends continue, immigrants and their descendents are projected to account for the vast majority - 88 percent - of the population growth by 2065 in the U.S., where 324 million now live, according to Pew.
Hispanics used to be the largest group of immigrants coming to the United States, but now the largest group is from Asia, Pew said. By 2055, there will be more Asian immigrants living in the country than Hispanic immigrants, 36 percent and 34 percent, respectively.
"Without the immigrants, the U.S. population would start decreasing," said Pew demographer Jeff Passel, among those who worked on the report.
"The big picture is that immigration has been the major demographic factor driving growth and change in the U.S. population over the last 50 years," he added.
For its report, which takes a 100-year look at U.S. immigration, Pew analyzed census data, population projections and conducted a survey that collected opinions on immigrants.
The bilingual online survey of 3,147 adults was conducted from March 10 to April 6 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percent.
Forty-five percent of Americans said immigrants in the U.S. are making society better in the long run and 37 percent say they are making it worse, the report said. Sixteen percent say they are not having much effect.
Half of respondents said immigrants are making the economy and crime worse, but about the same percentage believe immigrants are improving food, music and the arts, the report said.
Just under half of respondents said Asian and European immigrants have had a mostly positive effect on society, but Pew said Americans are more likely to have negative views about Latin American and Middle Eastern immigrants.
By 2065, there will be 78 million immigrants, and a record 18 percent who are foreign-born, Pew projected. The foreign-born population in the United States has swollen to 14 percent, or 45 million, in 2015, since the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, Pew said.
Without any post-1965 immigration, the U.S. would be 75 percent white, 14 percent black, 8 percent Hispanic and less than 1 percent Asian, Pew said.
Non-Hispanic whites are projected to become less than half of the U.S. population by 2055, and no racial or ethnic group will be a majority, Pew said.
(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales; Editing by Christian Plumb)