For America's future population, how much is too much?

Article author: 
Joseph Chamie
Article publisher: 
The Hill
Article date: 
14 December 2021
Article category: 
Our American Future
Article Body: 

Here is an article on our population predicament. Yet there are some problems with the article - see footnotes.

... America currently has 333 million citizens1: triple the number from a century ago. The U.S. population is currently the world’s third-largest after China at 1.44 billion and India at 1.39 billion.

... U.S. population is expected to increase to 400 million around mid-century...

Basically, there are two ways for America to increase its population size. One is through higher fertility rates that would result in substantially more births than deaths. The second is to increase the current levels of immigration to the U.S.

Regarding the fertility rate, in 2020, America was approximately one-half of a child below the replacement level, or, 1.64 births per woman. Although that fertility rate is a record low for America, it is similar to the levels of most developed countries and many developing countries.

Also, the U.S. fertility rate has been on a downward trend over the past 60 years and today is less than half the rate it was in 1960....

If immigration were to stop, America’s population is projected to remain basically unchanged by mid-century and nearly 10 percent smaller, or 301 million, by the close of the 21st century.

However, with a net immigration level of about 1.1 million annually per the U.S. Census Bureau’s main series projection, America’s population, despite its below-replacement fertility rate, continues to increase and is expected to reach 405 million by 2060.

A higher level of net immigration to America than what is currently being assumed seems likely, especially given today’s high levels of illegal migration. In the fiscal year 2021, more unauthorized migrants [illegal aliens]2, nearly 1.7 million, were apprehended than in all previous years. Also, the current “catch and release” policy is contributing to the more than 11 million unauthorized migrants3 now living in the country....

It is important to recognize that the continued growth of population, as some are recommending for America, is basically Ponzi demography. It is a demographic pyramid strategy for interminable population growth that benefits some people at the expense of human wellbeing and sustainability.

Many U.S. government officials, economists, business leaders and others are calling for increased population growth via greater immigration for the country....

In addition, those calling for increased U.S. population growth typically ignore environmental concerns, including climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, congestion and pollution. Their analyses focus nearly exclusively on GDP growth, profits, taxes, labor force, politics, cultural leadership and power. In addition, they are either unable or unwilling to specify when America’s rapid population growth will stop.4

Fifty years ago, the U.S. Commission on Population Growth and the American Future submitted a report [the Rockefeller Report]to the U.S. president and Congress. That was the only time the president and Congress ever created a commission to study population growth and its impact on America’s future.

After several years of concentrated efforts, the commission

concluded that, in the long run, no substantial benefits will result from further growth of the nation’s population, rather, the gradual stabilization of our population through voluntary means would contribute significantly to the nation’s ability to solve its problems.”

The commission also said population growth was a major factor affecting domestic demand for resources and the deterioration of the environment. Slower population growth, including less legal immigration and stopping illegal immigration, would reduce pressures on the environment and the depletion of resources as well as gain time to find solutions to the nation’s problems. The conclusions of the commission continue to remain true.

In brief, slower rates of U.S. population growth, with the goal of gradually moving to population stabilization, will make it far easier and less costly for America to deal with climate change and environmental degradation, as well as other major challenges facing the nation.5

Joseph Chamie is a consulting demographer, a former director of the United Nations Population Division and author of numerous publications on population issues, including his recent book, "Births, Deaths, Migrations and Other Important Population Matters."

Questions and discussion

1. What about legal immigrants and illegal aliens? Are they not included in the count?

2. No need to be politically correct. See: terminology history and usage: alien and illegal alien.

3. That old, stale, jaded, figure of 11 million illegal aliens has remained unchanged since the early 2000s. The actual number is likely three times that number. See How many illegal aliens reside in the United States?

4. 'Anyone who believes that exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist." - Kenneth Boulding.

5. Immigration, World Poverty and Gumballs

Immigration - Global humanitarian reasons for current U.S. immigration are tested in this updated version of immigration author and journalist Roy Beck's colorful presentation of data from the World Bank and U.S. Census Bureau. The 1996 version of this immigration gumballs presentation has been one of the most viewed immigration policy presentations on the internet.


6. See this interesting 5 minute interactive tutorial: Understanding Exponential Growth.