August 31st, 2007 02:14 EST
105 Million to U.S. Population by 2060
Washington – Since the founding of the United States, its population has been growing at a rate that some scientists say is unprecedented in human history. Some believe that this population explosion made the United States one of the most prosperous countries of the world, but others point to congestion, urban sprawl, traffic, pollution, loss of open spaces and the increase in greenhouse gas emissions as negative effects of rapid population growth.
A new report projects that current levels of immigration will add 105 million to the U.S. population by 2060, while having little effect on the rise in the median age in the U.S population.
The report, 100 Million More: Projecting the Impact of Immigration on the U.S. Population, 2007 to 2060, was prepared by Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, an independent research institute. Camarota based his projections on U.S. Census Bureau data and Census Bureau assumptions about future birth and death rates.
According to the report, about 1.6 million legal and illegal immigrants settle in the country and 350,000 people leave the United States each year, resulting in a net immigration of 1.25 million. If immigration continues at current levels, the nation’s population will increase from 301 million today to 468 million in 2060 -- a 167 million (or 56 percent) increase. Future immigrants and their descendants will account for 105 million (or 63 percent) of the increase.
Net immigration into the United States has been increasing for five decades. If that trend continues, the report predicts the increase caused by immigration will be higher than the projected 105 million.
The report shows that even immigration has a very large impact on the size of the nation's population, it has only a small effect in slowing the aging of American society. Some proponents of immigration have argued large numbers of immigrants are necessary to forestall the aging of society and a consequent imbalance between workers and retirees.
According to the report, most of the projected population increase will come from legal immigration. Illegal immigration will add 37.9 million to the U.S. population by 2060, given current trends, and legal immigration will add 67.4 million, Camarota found.
Camarota said that he believes the central question raised by his projections “is what costs and benefits come with having a much larger population and a more densely settled country.”
“Some see a deteriorating quality of life with a larger population, including its impact on such things as pollution, congestion, loss of open spaces, and sprawl. Others may feel that a much larger population will create more opportunities for businesses, workers and consumers.”
The study is “thoroughly depressing” and “devastating” to Roy Beck, the executive director of Numbers USA, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, public policy organization that opposes current federal immigration policies. Beck is the author of The Case Against Immigration. “That extra 100 million makes a tremendous difference in the quality of life,” he said. Beck sees mass immigration as a direct result of U.S. policy and calls it a “federally coercive congestion program.”
To Ben Wattenberg, however, the projections were good news. “Birth rates around the world are going down,” he said, citing shrinking populations in Europe, Eurasia and East Asia. Wattenberg is the author of Fewer: How the New Demography of Depopulation Will Shape Our Future. “The only major growing power in the world is the [United States]. It is a depopulating world.”
Beck and Wattenberg participated in a panel discussion on the new report at the National Press Club in Washington August 30.
The long-term nature of the population explosion in the United States is evident in the 75-fold increase from 1790, when the U.S. census counted just under 4 million, to today’s 301 million. Such population growth is the secret of U.S. dynamism, Wattenberg says, noting the contributions immigrants have made to American society and their tendency to be even more patriotic than native born Americans.
The average age of a new immigrant is 29, said Wattenberg, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington policy research organization. “They’re going to pay into Social Security [the U.S. federal retirement program] for 40 years before they retire.”
“Our secret weapon in globalization is we know how to assimilate people,” Wattenberg said.
Camarota, however, believes that his projections show that even with no immigration the U.S. population would increase significantly. Moreover, the effects of immigration are cumulative. “Immigrants admitted today become tomorrow’s retirees.”
Camarota sees the extended growth of immigration since the Immigration Act of 1965 as unprecedented in the U.S. history. All previous waves of immigration were followed by periods of low immigration, he said.
The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 abolished the national-origin immigration quotas and opened the way for much larger numbers of immigrants from non-European countries, especially Latin America and Asia.
The full text of the report is available on the Web site of the Center for Immigration Studies.
(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
By Jeffrey Thomas
USINFO Staff Writer