Immigration is down and so are births: Why population growth slowed down

Published on January 14th 2020

The population of the United States grew by 1.5 million between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019 — the smallest annual growth since the 1940s.

There are a few methods for measuring these population changes. First, there’s natural population change, which is the number of deaths in a given year subtracted from births. There’s also change from migration, which counts the number of immigrants arriving in a given year. Plus, migration between states needs to be counted for state populations.

A drop in every facet of population change has led to slowing population growth. The graphic below breaks down population changes by state and region.

In recent years, Census data shows births decreasing and deaths increasing. But while those changes have been gradual, population change from immigration dropped significantly over the past four years. According to the Census Bureau, the United States had 1 million new immigrants between July 2015 and June 2016 — the highest level of the last decade. In the latest annual count, there were just 600,000 new immigrants, a 43% drop.

States in all of the Census’s major regions — Northeast, Midwest, South and West — have had slowing annual natural growth since 2010. States in the Northeast lost population for the second consecutive year. States in the Northeast and Midwest lost population this decade to domestic migration to other states. More people moved to southern and western states than moved out.

In addition to declining immigration, annual natural growth (subtracting deaths from births) dropped in all states except for South Dakota between 2011 and 2019.

California, the most populous state in the US, leads the nation in natural growth (more than 180,000) and is second (just behind Florida with 74,000) for immigration growth. It lost 200,000 people last year to moving to another state but still gained 50,000 in population overall.

The nationwide slowdown in population growth isn’t just about the number of people, in the country but about the issues that will affect the country in the future. Everything from the labor force to programs such as K-12 education, Social Security and Medicare in the future is impacted by not only how much population changes, but how.

Sources

The population components data referred to in this piece comes from the Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program (PEP), one the agency’s many population counts. Annual estimates regarding change from July 1 of the previous year to June 30 of the current year usually are released in December.

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