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Immigration to drive future US population growth

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New figures released by the Pew Research Center, a US-based, non-partisan think thank, show that the population of the United States will rise to 438 million by 2050 from the current 296 million estimated in 2005. 82 percent of the increase will be due to immigrants arriving from 2005 to 2050 and their US-born descendants.

67 million of the 117 million people added to the population between 2005 and 2050 will be immigrants, while 50 million will be their US-born children or grandchildren.

If the Pew Research Center figures are correct, 19 percent of Americans will be immigrants by 2050. Currently, an estimated 12 percent or Americans are foreign-born.

Another key finding in the report was the growth in the US elderly population, which will more than double in size from 2005 through 2050, as the baby boom generation enters retirement. The number of working age Americans and their children will grow more slowly and shrink as a share of the total population.

The ongoing debate on immigration in the US has focused on many aspects, such as expansion of H-1B visa quotas and the question of what to do with the problem of "undocumented workers".

Because of this, immigration is a major focal point for candidates in the upcoming 2008 presidential elections. The current front-runners for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, support eventual paths to citizenship for the currently estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in America.

John McCain, who currently has the best chance for winning the Republican nomination, has supported bi-partisan legislation for an expansion of the H-1B program in the past and also supports a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants along with his Democratic counterparts.