IMMIGRATION DRIVES U.S. POPULATION GROWTH
by Edwin S. Rubenstein
U.S. population, 322 million by late 2015, is growing by over 2.5 million per year. According to one study, the country can sustain a population of only 200 million, and that’s only if we cut energy consumption by half.
The key to population stability is a sustained drop in fertility to the “replacement rate” level, where births and deaths offset one another. In fact, Americans achieved replacement rate fertility in the early 1970s, and our native-born population has remained at or below replacement for much of the subsequent period. Yet population hasn’t leveled off, and isn’t expected to level off any time this century. The reason: extraordinary rates of international immigration.
Rising immigration levels, coupled with a declining rate of natural increase (births minus deaths), mean that immigration accounts for a larger share of U.S. population growth now than in any decade since 1900-09:
The chart shows that in the 1960s, first-generation immigrants (annual new arrivals) accounted for 15.6% of the increase in U.S. population. During the 2000 to 2009 decade that figure averaged 35.0%, and from 2010 to 2014 new immigrants accounted for 40.2% of all U.S. population growth.
Two points must be made at the outset. First, these figures understate the true impact of immigration by not including the U.S.-born children of immigrants who arrived during these many decades. As is brought out below, immigrant women give birth to a disproportionate share of babies born in the U.S.
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