Evaluating the Role of Immigration in U.S. Population Projections


Presented at the Population Association of American Annual Meeting, May 2012, San Francisco

We first replicate the official 2008 Census Bureau projections by race/ethnicity and then develop separate routines and assumptions for immigrants and natives. The most important finding so far is that immigration accounts for the overwhelming majority of future U.S. population growth. Future immigration by itself will add about 100 million new residents to the U.S. population by 2050, accounting for about three-fourths of population growth. Moreover, if immigration continues at the level the Census Bureau expects, it would not be possible to stabilize the U.S. population even if native fertility were dramatically lower. We can also say that immigration has a positive, but small impact on the share of the population that is of working age. The arrival of nearly 70 million immigrants (the Census Bureau level of immigration) over the next four decades can only offset about 14 percent of the decline in the share of the population that is of working age (16 to 65). We find that immigration is no fix for an aging society, a finding that is consistent with prior research.

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