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Census: U.S. Population to Shrink by 2100

The U.S. population will likely stop growing by 2080 and shrink slightly by 2100, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription).

What’s going on: Federal government projections released late last week marked the “first time that the [U.S. Census] [B]ureau has projected a population decline as part of its main outlook for the coming decades. The only time the U.S. has recorded a population decline was in 1918, when the flu pandemic and deployment abroad of more than 1 million troops produced a small drop in the estimated population.”

  • Death rates remain 9% higher than they were before the global pandemic.
  • Under the most likely scenario put forth by the Census Bureau, by 2038 deaths would exceed births.

Why it’s happening: The anticipated contraction is a result of years of declining birthrates, higher death rates owing to an aging populace and greater dependence on immigration for population growth.

  • Annual growth rates have declined from 1.2% in the 1990s to just 0.5% today, and on the current trajectory will fall to 0.2% by 2040.

Why it’s important: “The shift will weigh on the U.S. economy and its geopolitical standing. With fewer young workers to support the elderly, entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare would face greater strains. Population decline could broadly reorient a society that grew explosively well into the 20th century.”

What to expect: Birth rates will likely remain at historically low levels, while life expectancy will continue to rise.

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