In 1918, U.S. population growth nearly flatlined, amidst the Great War and the global Spanish Flu pandemic. In 2019, U.S. population growth hit its lowest levels since then, and for another bad reason: Birth rates are falling, immigration is constricted, and millions of Americans are dying prematurely.
Unless America can reverse this huge and dispiriting trend, it’s going to have rippling impacts on our society.
In crowded New York City, where everyone jockeys for subway and street space and affordable housing, you might hear a cheer here and there about the fact that a new Census Bureau report says the nation’s population grew by less than 0.5% in 2019, part of a steady decline since 2015.
But population growth is exactly what our metropolis should want, and it’s a great national tonic. It means more people paying into Social Security and Medicare, both otherwise on the road to being depleted as the Baby Boomers retire. It means more looking to the future, less European-style wallowing in the past.
In the Obama administration’s final year, more than a million people moved to the U.S. from other parts of the world. The new faces brought what they always do: an infusion of energy and vitality, new ideas and perspectives. That decade-high has since fallen to just shy of 600,000, despite President Trump disingenuously claiming he wants “people to come into our country in the largest numbers ever.” In fact, he has supported legislation and rule changes to slash legal immigration in half.
An America that’s barely growing will soon be an America that’s shrinking. A nation with boundless ambitions could soon become one with clipped wings.