The Biden administration is about to smash a once-in-a-lifetime event, a rare period of population stabilization.
We keep hearing about the need to rebuild our infrastructure, and there are two reasons why this is needed. One is well publicized: Stuff we built 50 or 60 years ago badly needs fixing.
The other reason is that anything built 60 years ago was built for a population of 179 million and now there are about 333 million of us, an increase of about 85 percent. Needless to say, a typical bridge or hospital that was built in 1961 is facing 85 percent more usage now than it did at the time of construction.
Wouldn’t it help the fraying infrastructure, and the agricultural land that feeds us, if the population stopped exploding? Of course it would, but that non-Chamber-of-Commerce point of view is ignored by the leaders of both parties.
Population size is dictated by four variables: immigration, emigration, births, and deaths.
While we know little about the least of those factors, emigration, recent data on the other three suggest a reduced population, or a populace growing in size more slowly, something that benefits us all except, of course, for those killed tragically by the virus, and their families. (The slowing population trend is largely caused by Covid-19, and to a lesser extent the policies of the last administration).
Let’s look at some recent data on these trends.
Immigration. First, while much of legal immigration involves adjustment of status within the U.S., perhaps half of it consists of people getting immigrant visas from the State Department, and this is what was reported for the fiscal years 2016 through 2020:
Fiscal year 2020 ended on September 30, 2020, so the impact of Covid-19 will linger in relatively small numbers of immigrant visas for this fiscal year, 2021. Were these data to include refugees, as they do not, the rate of decrease would be higher.
The reduction in immigrant visas (and I had not seen these numbers until just now) between FY 2017 and FY 2020, is by a factor of two-thirds, a stunning comparison.
Births. The birth rate reductions are nowhere nearly as dramatic as the immigrant visa cutbacks, but they are substantial, as a lead article in the May 5 New York Times tells us. It reported that the total number of births, 3,605,201 in 2020, was the lowest since 1979, and that the birth rate of women ages 15-44 had dropped by approximately 19 percent since 2007. The rate in 2020, a reduction from the prior year of about 4 percent, apparently was impacted by people’s reaction to the virus crisis.
Deaths. Whereas I had to dig into some obscure sources to get the immigrant visa data, the number of deaths from Covid-19 is published every morning in many of the nation’s newspapers. For the most part, these are additional deaths to those that might be expected. A May 2, 2021, tabulation showed a total of 573,780 virus-related deaths in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic.
Longer-Term Trends. All of the data shown above are short-term trends set in motion by the pandemic and Trump administration policies, and in some cases by virus-caused Trump policies.
These trends, some of them quite temporary, however, reinforce longer-term trends that run in the same direction, toward a smaller population or at least a less rapidly growing one.
Recently released 2020 census data, for example, showed that the U.S. population had grown (since 2010) by a smaller rate than in any decade but one since we started counting people in the 18th century. The overall growth rate in the last 10 years was only 7.4 percent, compared to a 7.3 percent growth rate in the Depression-impacted 1930's.
Biden Policies. These approaches to population stabilization, however, are threatened by the “let-‘em-all-in” policies of the current administration. We have seen remarkable surges of illegal immigration at our southern border, obviously egged on by Biden policies: We will let in as many as 62,000 refugees this fiscal year, as opposed to a perhaps too stingy 15,000 in the prior year; the administration wants to legalize the presence of virtually all of the illegal aliens currently in the nation (which can only encourage more illegal immigration); it has abandoned building walls on our southern border; and it wants to double the size of the visa lottery.
Just at a point when we are approaching a welcome slowing of population growth (though some of it is coming in tragic forms), a slowing that will be beneficial to our over-stretched infrastructure, the current White House seems to be — deliberately — taking steps to return to the days of an exploding population.