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Lawler: Updates on Key Drivers of US Population Growth
Lowest Growth in over a Century from 7/1/2020 to 7/1/2021
This is an article from housing economist Tom Lawler (this is important for understanding demographics):
Based on provisional CDC data on US births and deaths, and using a reasonable “guesstimate” on Net International Migration based on available immigration data, it appears as if the US resident population from 7/1/2020 to 7/1/2021 grew by just 486,290, or 0.15%. That growth would be the lowest in over a century.
Provisional data from the CDC suggest that US births in the first six months of 2021 totaled about 1.749 million, down about 1.9% from the comparable period of 2020. Births in 2020 totaled about 3.611 million, the lowest annual number of US births since 1979.
Provisional data from the CDC suggest that the number of US deaths in the first six months of 2021 totaled about 1.684 million, 3.2% higher than the comparable period of 2020. Deaths in all of 2020 totaled about 3.388 million, up a whopping 18.6% from 2019.
“Natural” Population Increase
These data suggest that the so-called “natural” increase in the US population – that is, births less deaths – totaled a measly 64,426 in the first six months of 2021, and over the 12-month period ending in June the “natural” rate of increase was just 136,290. By way of contrast, the natural increase in the US population averaged 1.071 million in the 5-year period ending in 2019 and 1.415 million in the 5-year period ending in 2014.
Net International Migration:
While there are no timely and reliable data on Net International Migration (NIM, or immigration less emigration) to the US, there is little doubt that both immigration and emigration plunged following the onset of the pandemic, and remained unusually low through at least the early part of this year. While information on total immigration activity is limited, there are a few indicators showing the sharp decline in activity.
One comes from a quarterly report from the Office of Homeland Security on the number of persons obtaining Lawful Permanent Residence (LPR) status. According to the latest report, which is for the quarter ended March, 2021, the number of new arrivals to the US who obtained LPR over the four quarters ending March 2021 totaled just 105,918, down from 455,666 in the four-quarter period ending March 2020 and 500,796 in the four-quarter period ending March 2019.
Another indicator is monthly Immigrant Visa Issuance published by the State Department. Such issuance plunged following the onset of the pandemic last year and remained unusually low through the early part of this year, though issuance has picked up considerable since the spring of this year.
To the best of my knowledge there are no timely indicators (or in fact any data) on US emigration.
In terms of net international migration (NIM), the latest estimates released by Census were from the “Vintage 2020” population estimates. These estimates, however, did NOT incorporate the results from Census 2020, and the Vintage 2020 estimates of the April 1, 2020 resident population was about 2 million below the Census 2020 tally. If both the Census 2010 and Census 2020 were accurate, then the “miss” from Vintage 2020 almost certainly came from an under-estimation of NIM over the decade ending April 1, 2020. Stated another way, the latest NIM estimates probably understated NIM by about 200,000 a year last decade, though there is no way of telling the underestimate by year.
With that caveat in mind, here are the Vintage 2020 estimates of NIM.
Net International by Year (12-Months Ending 6/30 of Each Year, Census Vintage 2020)
Given the limited data available on immigration activity, it seems likely that NIM over the 12 month period ending 6/30/2021 was lower than in the 12-month period ending 6/30/2020. As noted above, however, it is also virtually certain that the above Vintage 2020 NIM estimates have understated NIM, though by how much in each year is not known. As such, it is challenging to produce a reasonable guesstimate” for NIM over the 12-month period ending 6/30/2021.
Based on the limited data available, however, a reasonable guess for NIM over the 12-month period would be somewhere around 350,000 (although a lower number would not be surprising).
If that were the case, and given the available data on births and deaths, the US resident population from July 1,2020 to July 1,2021 would have grown by just 486,290 (or 0.15%), the lowest annual increase in over a century (the population actually declined slightly in 1918). Such growth would also be well below the assumption in Census’ Vintage 2020 estimates for this year (Annual population estimates include projections for the year ahead, which are used as “controls” in the CPS household survey estimates of the labor force and employment.).
Below is a graph showing the estimated growth rate in the US resident population by year over the last decade. Note that these growth rates differ from the Census Vintage 2020 estimates, which were below the Census 2020 tally for April 1, 2020. In deriving these updated estimates I assumed that (1) all of the “miss” in the Vintage 2020 estimates were from NIM estimates, and (2) that the % miss in NIM was the same for each year.
Census has not yet released updated historical population estimates based on the Census 2020 results.