Census: Population Up 27 Million in Just 10 Years

"The nation’s ongoing debate over immigration generally has not focused on the effect it has on U.S. population size. Yet, increasing the nation’s total population is one of immigration’s clearest and most direct effects. Supporters of low immigration point to the congestion, sprawl, traffic, pollution, loss of open spaces, and greenhouse gas emissions that could be impacted by population growth."

- Steven A. Camarota, CIS Director of Research


Subtopics:
Population Projections


By Steven A. Camarota December 2010

Contact: Steven A. Camarota, sac@cis.org, (202)466-8185

WASHINGTON (December 21, 2010) – Most of the media coverage of the 2010 Census will likely focus on the country's changing racial composition and the redistribution of seats in Congress. But neither of these is the most important finding. Rather, it is the dramatic increase in the size of the U.S. population itself that has profound implications for our nation's quality of life and environment. Most of the increase has been, and will continue to be, a result of one federal policy: immigration. Projections into the future from the Census Bureau show we are on track to add 130 million more people to the U.S. population in the just the next 40 years, primarily due to future immigration.

  • Immigration accounted for three-quarters of population growth during the decade. Census Bureau data found 13.1 million new immigrants (legal and illegal) who arrived in the last 10 years; there were also about 8.2 million births to immigrant women during the decade.1

  • The numerical increase of 27.3 million this decade is exceeded by only two other decades in American history.

  • Without a change in immigration policy, the nation is projected to add roughly 30 million new residents each decade for the foreseeable future.

  • Assuming the current ratio of population to infrastructure, adding roughly 30 million each decade will mean:
    • building and paying for 8,000 new schools every 10 years;
    • developing land to accommodate 11.5 million new housing units every 10 years;

    • constructing enough roads to handle 23.6 million more vehicles every 10 years.

  • While our country obviously can "fit" more people, and technology and planning can help manage the situation, forcing such high population growth through immigration policy has profound implications for the environment, traffic, congestion, sprawl, water quality, and the loss of open spaces.

  • Forcing population growth also impacts how our democracy functions. A 27 million increase in the U.S. population increases the number of constituents a member of the US House must serve by 62,000. The effect on the state legislatures and local governments is also considerable.

  • While immigration is making our population much larger and our country more densely settled, it has only a modest impact on slowing the aging of our society. It must be remembered that native-born Americans, unlike couples in most other developed countries, still have about 2 children on average.2

  • Census Bureau data collected earlier this year showed that the 13.1 million immigrants who arrived in the last 10 years, plus all of the children they had once in the country, have reduced the average age in the United States slightly, from 37.4 years to 36.8 years.3

  • As the Census Bureau stated in its population projections published in 2000, immigration is a "highly inefficient" means for addressing the problem of an aging society in the long run. The updated projections done in 2008 show the same thing.4

End Notes

1 The public use file of the March 2010 Current Population Survey collected by the Census Bureau shows 13.1 million foreign born individuals living in the United States who arrived in 2000 or later. It also shows 8.3 million children born in the United States to immigrant mothers over that same time period.

2 The public use file of the American Community Survey collected by the Census Bureau from 2006 to 2008 shows that the average U.S.-born woman had 2.01 children. The statistic is referred to as the Total Fertility Rate.

3 These figures are based on the public use file of the March 2010 Current Population Survey.

4 See page 21 of the methodology and assumptions for the 2000 Census Bureau projections, Population Division Working Paper No. 38 http://www.census.gov/population/www/documentation/twps0038.pdf.