Going Down–What’s Up With Slowing U.S. Population Growth?

Feeling down after all 2020 threw at us? Morale isn’t the only thing that’s down in our country. The national population growth has headed south as well. What’s up with this decline?

In addition to votes being counted in 2020, people were too. While the number of votes for a presidential candidate are only a concern every four years, ongoing tabs are kept on the U.S. population. And when I say ongoing, I mean daily. The estimated population of the good ole USA was 332,108,584 as of January 26, 2021. Baby born? Add one. COVID-19 death? Subtract one.

While a number is interesting, the direction the numbers are going is even more interesting–and concerning. The U.S. population (which is equivalent to 4.27% of the worlds’ population for you number nerds) grew only 7% between 2010 and 2020 according to a Census Bureau estimate. This is the slowest national population growth since the Great Depression. What depressing news!

Recent figures reveal sixteen states have lost population. These unfortunate members of the union, in no particular order, are California, Massachusetts (thank heaven for spellchecker!), Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Alaska, Hawaii, Connecticut (spellchecker to the rescue again!), Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi (I knew how to spell that without spellchecker), New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia. The biggest drops in population between mid-2019 to mid-2020 were in New York and California.

So what’s the big deal if the population dips in a particular state? Well, it is a big deal to the remaining residents of the state. Their state may lose federal funds and federal representation due to the dwindling numbers. New York, for example, is expected to lose a seat in Congress and an electoral vote. (Ah, yes, it always comes back to politics.) Accordingly, those states enumerated above will not consider themselves in a “Sweet Sixteen” list.

The number of residents in a few states are down, but how do the bean counters arrive at the conclusion that national population growth has slowed? I don’t know if there’s an app for it (there seems to be one for everything else), but there is a mathematical formula to use to determine annual growth; these figures can be compared from year to year. Fortunately there is no “x” in the formula, so I can understand it. Births – deaths + net migration = population growth. In layman’s terms, I’d explain that calculation as coming – going + showing up.

One of the reasons for the decline in U.S. population growth is low birth rates. According to a CDC report, the number of babies born in this country hit the lowest level in three decades in 2019. Oh, baby! Additionally, there has been a five year downward trend in the birth rate. Things are so bleak that Americans are not populating the country at a rate that allows replacement of the current population.

The total fertility rate in the U.S. for 2019 was 1.7 children per women. (Calling King Solomon to determine how we get 0.7 of a child.) That rate is below the required replacement fertility rate of around 2.1. (Who has these 0.1 children???) In fact, the fertility rate has been below replacement since 1971. Birth rates are sinking to an all time low. Yikes! Are those of us living in the U.S. the next to be placed on the endangered list?

There were significant drops in December 2020 births compared to 1 year earlier. So much for being on lockdown creating a baby boom….This large drop in birth rates is likely to continue for months because, as some sociologists believe, there is societal and economic uncertainty. Who wants to bring a bundle of joy into the world when there is unrest, tension, divisiveness, and financial woes? (Caveat: This presumes the couple was planning to get pregnant.)

But low birth rates are not the only culprit for the declining denizens of our country. Aging residents are adding to the loss. Who are these aging residents? Raising my hand as a proud member of the Baby Boom Generation. We BB’s are babies born from 1946 to 1964 during the post World War II baby boom. Based on 2019 figures, BB’s account for 23.5% of the U.S. population, an estimated 73 million people. About 10,000 BB’s a day reach age 65. In fact, by 2030, all BB’s will be 64 or older. Yup! The country is graying and not growing.

In addition to declining birth rates and aging residents, immigration cutbacks have fueled the downward trend in population growth. In 2016, our country counted around 1 million immigrants arriving; that number fell to 595,000 in 2018-2019. The smaller number of immigrants resulted not only from immigration restrictions put in place by the Trump administration, but from the perception of residents of other countries that the U.S. had fewer economic opportunities than before. Money makes the world go round and drives immigration.

And, of course, we’d be remiss in not pointing a finger of blame at COVID-19 for having a recent hand in this downturn. Mortality resulting from the pandemic bumped up the number of deaths and sent the population growth lower. So far, 430,000 individuals in the U.S. have lost their lives due to the virus with the 500,000 death mark rapidly approaching. (Wear a mask, wash your hands, and social distance, people!)

The pandemic has affected the number of births as well as the number of deaths. With bars and restaurants closed and social gatherings restricted, the opportunities for encounters leading to casual sex and unplanned pregnancies have plummeted. Well, perhaps that’s not an unwelcome result, eh?

Whether or not the figures produced by the 2020 Census expected in March provide an accurate population count, a specific number of residents isn’t the point. The key concept is that our nation’s population growth is slowing. But having less people in the U.S. to bicker with each other and damage our environment is not a bad result of lower population growth. Now if we could only manage downward population growth of the coronavirus.

Just WONDER-ing:

Do you see lower population growth in our country as a negative? Were you aware that BB’s were such a large portion of the U.S. population? Should immigration restrictions be eased to allow for more population growth in our country? Why or why not?

One thought on “Going Down–What’s Up With Slowing U.S. Population Growth?

  1. Immigration should be eased. As we baby boomers reach retirement we need someone paying into the taxes to offset our extracting from them.


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