Recently, the U.S. Census Bureau released the preliminary results of the 2020 U.S. Census. Data show that as of April 1, 2020, the total population of the United States is about 330 million people, an increase of only 7.4% over a decade ago, and the population growth rate is slowing significantly. The New York Times’s feature, “Slowing Population Growth in the U.S.,” combines declining birth rates, aging trends and declining immigration to point out that demographic changes will have far-reaching implications for the U.S. political environment, economic environment, and social security.
The New York Times notes that the slowdown in U.S. population growth will have far-reaching implications for its political environment, economic environment and social security
Population growth has slowed
Since 1790, the United States has conducted a census every 10 years. The 7.4 per cent rise in the census was the second-lowest on record, just above the 7.3 per cent recorded during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Unlike in the 1930s, the U.S. population rebounded strongly in the decade after the Great Recession, growing 14.5 percent, according to the Washington Post. The slowdown is a long-term trend, with the main reasons behind it being an ageing population, declining fertility and a lack of immigration.
The U.S. population grew 7.3 percent between 2010 and 2020, the lowest level since the Great Depression of the 1930s, according to the Washington Post
The aging of American society and the inadequacy of fertility are becoming more and more prominent. According to the Census Bureau, the proportion of people over 65 in the total population is up 35 percent from 10 years ago. In the late 1940s and early 1960s, there was a strong baby boom in American society, with a population growth rate of 18.5 per cent. Currently, most Americans born at that time have reached or are about to reach the age of 70. Since then, declining fertility rates have struggled to offset the rate at which older populations are dying, resulting in insufficient incentives for total population growth.
At the same time, immigration, one of the main drivers of population growth in the United States, is declining. Between 1965 and 2015, the number of immigrants to the United States increased by 72 million, contributing more than half of the increase in the overall population, according to the Pew Research Center. Since 2007, however, the number of immigrants has been declining year by year, further increasing the pressure on population growth.
A contest for political power
The most immediate impact of the census on American society is political. Under the U.S. Constitution, the House of Representatives is made up of 435 members from each state, and the number of seats in each state depends on the proportion of the population in each state. At the same time, in previous presidential elections, the corresponding electoral votes for each state correspond to the number of members of the state’s Congress. As a result, the results of the 10-yearly census will have a direct impact on the next two presidential elections.
According to the census results, the trend of the U.S. population in the past 10 years reflects the trend from east to west, from north to south. The New York Times points out that Texas and Florida have become ideal places for large numbers of immigrants and even Americans because of strong economic growth in recent years, while the high cost of living in New York and California is prohibitive.
Specifically, the two largest Democratic seats in New York and California each lost one House seat after the census. Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois each lost one seat. In contrast, Republican-majority Texas added two seats and Florida added one. North Carolina, Colorado, Montana and Oregon each added one seat. Historically, the New York Times argues, the result has been a “plus point” for Republicans.
In fact, the political game was played out long before last year’s census. Historically, the U.S. Census did not require respondents to be U.S. nationals, so large numbers of undocumented immigrants were counted among the state’s population, helping immigrant-intensive areas such as New York and California play a role in the political arena. To help Republicans gain more leverage for victory, the Trump administration has repeatedly tried to eliminate the count of nondocumented immigrants in the census, but a series of failed efforts have failed.
Economic pressures have skyrocketed
In addition to the political dimension, demographic changes also have far-reaching effects on the economic level.
On the one hand, census data give a glimpse into the social changes in the United States over the past decade. The U.S. fertility rate has fallen to 1.7, the data show, and the growing burden of living is reducing the number of Americans interested in having children. Diane Lin, an economist at George Washington University, argues that high child-care and education spending are the main reasons behind this phenomenon.
On the other hand, an aging population will seriously hamper the U.S. economy. Baby boomers are now entering the old age on a large scale, and the ratio of the labour force to pensioners has risen from 8:1 in 1945 to nearly 3:1 today, combined with a shortage of workers. In response, the Washington Post argues that immigration policy is at the top of the agenda. If mass migration is not continued, the United States will inevitably evolve into an aging society similar to that of Japan, Germany and Italy.