Projecting the Impact of Immigration on the U.S. Population

July 26, 2019
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A new report from the Center for Immigration Studies deflates the false argument that mass immigration is necessary to support government and the economy. The report is: Projecting the Impact of Immigration on the U.S. Population - A look at size and age structure through 2060, by Steven A. Camarota and Karen Zeigler, February 2019. Key findings follow:


  • The Census Bureau projects that future net immigration (the difference between the number coming and number leaving) will total 46 million by 2060 and the total U.S. population will reach 404 million — 79 million larger than in 2017.
  • Varying the immigration component shows that net immigration will add 75 million to the population, accounting for 95 percent of the increase by 2060.
  • Zero net immigration in the future is unlikely, but we can gain insight into immigration’s impact by com-paring the level projected by the Census Bureau to what would happen if immigration was reduced by two-thirds, which would roughly stabilize the U.S. population after 2040 — henceforth referred to as the “stabilization scenario”.
  • Under a stabilization scenario, net immigration would total 16 million by 2060 (370,000 annually) producing a population of 354 million in 2060 — 50 million less than currently projected by the Bureau — but 29 million larger than in 2017.
  • Many argue that without immigration there will not be enough workers to support the government or economy. Yet these projections indicate that in 2060, 59 percent of the population will be of working-age (16-64) compared to a quite similar 58 percent under the stabilization scenario.
  • Looking at the ratio of potential workers (ages 16 to 64) relative to those of retirement age (65-plus) also shows the modest impact of immigration. Under the stabilization scenario there will be 2.2 workers per retiree compared to 2.5 workers assuming the Census Bureau’s level of immigration....

We find that varying the immigration component has a very large impact on the future size of the U.S. population. The Census Bureau projects net immigration of 46.4 million between 2017 and 2060, creating total a population of 404 million in that year — 96 million larger than in the last Census in 2010 and 79 million larger than in 2017. The addition is roughly equal to the combined populations of France and Belgium. Almost all (75 million) of the post-2017 increase is due to future immigration. That is, immigrants who have not yet arrived, but who will do so absent a change in policy, plus their descendants. Although immigration makes for a much larger population, immigration does not have a large impact on increasing the share of the population that is of working age....

The debate over immigration should not be whether it makes for a much larger population — it does. The debate over immigration should also not be whether it has a large impact on increasing the working-age share of the population or the ratio of workers to retirees — it does not.

The key question for the public and policy-makers is what costs and benefits come with having a much larger population and a more densely settled country. Some foresee a deteriorating quality of life with a larger population, including its impact on such things as pollution, congestion, loss of open spaces, and sprawl.

Others may feel that a much larger population will create more opportunities for businesses, workers, and consumers. These projections do not resolve those questions. What the projections do tell us is where we are headed as a country in terms of the size and density of our population. The question for the nation is: Do we wish to go there?