This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Population Growth Slows in the US

It has been a year since the first results from the 2010 census were made available, initially for the purpose of Congressional Apportionment and Redistricting. To celebrate the anniversary, the US Census Bureau has released its estimates of population growth in the US in the year following the census. The results are somewhat sobering, as noted today by the New York Times:

“The nation’s overall growth rate is now at its lowest point since before the baby boom,” the Census Bureau director, Robert M. Groves, said in a statement.
The sluggish pace puts the country “in a place we haven’t been in a very long time,” said William H. Frey, senior demographer at the Brookings Institution. “We don’t have that vibrancy that fuels the economy and people’s sense of mobility,” he said. “People are a bit aimless right now.”
Underlying the modest growth was an immigration level that was the lowest in 20 years. The net increase of immigrants to the United States for the year that ended in July was an estimated 703,000, the smallest since 1991, Mr. Frey said, when the immigrant wave that dates to the 1970s began to pick up pace. It peaked in 2001, when the net increase of immigrants was 1.2 million, and was still above 1 million in 2006. But it slowed substantially when the housing market collapsed, and the jobs associated with its boom that were popular among immigrants disappeared.
“Net immigration from Mexico is close to zero, and we haven’t seen that in at least 40 years,” said Jeffrey S. Passel, senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center. “We are in a very different kind of immigration situation.”
I was asked by a local reporter about the seeming doom and gloom surrounding the announcement of slow growth. "Isn't it good to have slower population growth?" And, of course, this is the classic conundrum. We understand the Malthusian dilemma that the population cannot grow forever, or even more specifically that rapid population growth creates all kinds of problems with which we may be unable to cope...and yet we are still imbued with the notion that growth is good, rather than the reverse.

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