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Fewer Immigrants and Newborns, More Elderly Slow U.S. Population Growth

WASHINGTON, May 21, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ – Lower immigration levels, population aging, and declining fertility rates are driving a decline in U.S. population growth, according to a new Population Reference Bureau (PRB) analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

Between 2010 and 2011, the U.S. population increased by 0.7 percent, after averaging 0.9 percent growth each year from 2000 through 2010, reported Mark Mather, PRB associate vice president for Domestic Programs.  We added just 2.3 million people from 2010 to 2011, compared with 2.9 million from 2005 to 2006, just five years earlier.

The current decline is a “significant departure” from recent trends but “it’s too soon to tell whether it will continue or is a short-term result of the recession,” he said.

The U.S. population is currently projected to reach “majority-minority” status (the point at which less than 50 percent of the population is non-Hispanic white) in 2042. But a sustained drop in immigration levels and fertility rates would slow the pace of minority population growth.

Drop in Immigration: Between 2010 and 2011, net migration was estimated at around 700,000, down from 1.4 million per year in 2000 and 2001. This decline contributes to slower growth in the Latino and Asian American populations, and has been linked to job losses in occupations often filled by recent immigrants, as well as stricter immigration law enforcement.

Population Aging:  Between 2010 and 2011, the number of children declined by 190,000, while the number of elderly increased by 917,000; just a decade ago we added more children than elderly. Also down sharply is growth in the number of working-age adults, including those in prime childbearing ages. With more baby boomers retiring and fewer people of reproductive age, births could decline further, and the United States could start to resemble elderly-heavy, slow-growth European countries, Mather noted.

Declining Fertility Rates: There were an estimated 4 million births between 2010 and 2011, down from 4.2 million at the recent peak of U.S. population growth between 2005 and 2006. The total fertility rate (TFR) stood at an average of 2.0 lifetime births per woman in 2009—down from 2.1 a few years ago—but preliminary data from the National Center for Health Statistics suggest that the TFR could drop below 2 births per woman in 2010. Births among Latina women, a group with historically high fertility rates, could drop below 2.5 per woman in the near future.

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