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Between 2020 and 2021, the US population grew by 393,000 people. That’s one of the lowest single-year population increases on record. By comparison, between 2014 and 2015, the US grew by 2.4 million residents, six times higher than last year’s increase.

While COVID-19 related deaths had an impact on those lower numbers, decreasing birth rates also played a role.

With natural population growth down in recent years, immigration is a bigger factor in the growth of the country. Last year, immigration accounted for 62% of all population growth, even though immigration numbers were lower due to the pandemic.

Census data shows immigration is bolstering population growth for a wide range of areas, from booming Southern states to slow-growing or shrinking states in the Midwest. Immigration is increasingly important to the growth of the US workforce.[1] During the pandemic, immigration increased in every state, offsetting some of the increase in deaths due to COVID-19.

How are state and county populations impacted by immigration?

States and counties are increasingly relying on immigration for population growth, according to Census data.

Nationwide, the foreign-born population in the US grew faster than the native-born population since 2010.

There were 45 million foreign-born residents in the US in 2019, about 14% of the total population.[2] That group grew by 12% from 2010 to 2019. Over the same time, the native-born population grew 5%.

More than half of the five million new immigrants since 2010 settled in five states: Florida, Texas, California, Washington, and New Jersey. Three of those states, Florida, Texas, and Washington, ranked in the top 10 of overall population growth during that period.

Between 2010 and 2019, all but one state had population growth from immigrants.

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In some states, immigration growth offsets lower or negative domestic population change (the difference between births and deaths). Between 2010 and 2019, foreign-born population growth exceeded native-born population growth in 12 states. Nine of those states lost the native-born population. For example, New Jersey’s foreign-born population increased by 230,000 during the period compared with a 150,000 decline in the native-born population.

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Some of the fastest-growing counties in the US attributed half or more of their population growth to increases in foreign-born population. Of the 43 counties that gained more than 100,000 in population from 2010 to 2019, seven had more than half of their growth come from immigrants. About 86% of the 211,000 new residents in Florida’s Miami-Dade County were foreign-born, the highest among those fast-growing counties.

Native-born population decreased by 10,000 or more in 33 counties from 2010 to 2019. Those decreases were offset by increases in foreign-born population in 24 of those counties.

How does this affect the workforce?

The US relies on population growth to help fuel the economy, specifically the job market.

Between 2005 and 2021, the labor force — people 16 and older employed or looking for employment — increased by 11.9 million. Slightly more than half of that growth came from the foreign-born population. Even with those increases the foreign-born labor force (28 million) remains much smaller than the native-born (133 million).

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What happened during the pandemic?

More than two years into the pandemic, it is unclear where population growth trends will move in the future. Natural population change was down from 2020 to 2021, as was the total number of new immigrants to the US.

Deaths outpaced births in half of all states, meaning those states had a negative natural population change. Florida had the biggest decrease, with 45,000 more deaths than births. During the same year, international migration added population to every state, from just over 100 new immigrants moving to Wyoming, to 38,600 new immigrants in Florida.

Some recent developments could impact immigration growth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is lifting restrictions on migrants from crossing land borders due to COVID-19. In March 2022, there was a State Department backlog of 437,000 people waiting to schedule visa interviews. That backlog, about the size of Miami’s total population, is more than six times higher than the average monthly waitlist in 2019.

Learn more about our changing population, including demographic changes in age, race, and ethnicity.

American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates
Population Estimates Program (PEP)
Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey
[1]

Immigration is defined as a person migrating to the US from another country. Foreign-born immigrants comprise almost all migrants to the US.

[2]

The 2020 Census did not ask about birthplaces. The 2020 experimental American Community Survey (1-year estimates) did provide data on the foreign-born population, however, the Census Bureau does not recommend comparing that dataset to previous years. Results from the 2021 version of the survey are expected to be released in late 2022.