Nov 9, 2023 - Health

Census projects U.S. population bust by 2080

Projected U.S. population
Data: U.S. Census; Graphic: Rahul Mukherjee/Axios

America will enter the 22nd century with a shrinking population unless immigration increases, according to new U.S. Census Bureau projections released Thursday.

Why it matters: Beyond changing what the country looks like, these demographic trends could profoundly reshape the economy and alter society.

  • Population growth is critically important for economic growth and maintaining safety-net programs.

What's happening: The U.S. population will begin declining after reaching a peak of nearly 370 million people in 2080, per the Census Bureau's "most likely" scenario.

  • Though it's expected to eventually decline, the population will still likely be 9.2% larger in 2100 than it was in 2023 — jumping from around 335 million people to 366 million.

Zoom in: The Census Bureau's estimates were based on assumptions about future birth and death rates and different migration scenarios.

  • In almost all scenarios, immigration was projected to be the largest contributor to population growth, as it has been for decades.
  • When the bureau considered the zero-immigration scenario, the country's population began declining almost immediately and would drop to 226 million by 2100.
  • With high immigration, the country could reach 435 million people by the end of this century.

By the numbers: The U.S. is expected to age rapidly, with people 65 years or older outnumbering children under 18 by 2029.

  • The bureau believes 29.1% of the population will most likely be older than 65 and 16.4% will be children by 2100.
  • Women, too, are projected to continue living longer than men, with their median age rising to 49.1 years by the end of the century compared to males' 46.8 years.
  • Around 2038, the country will likely begin experiencing more deaths than births annually.

The country's non-Hispanic white population is expected to begin declining around 2045. It currently makes up around 58.9% of the country's population but may drop to 44.9% in 2060.

  • By then, the Hispanic population will make up 26.9% of the country, up from the current 19.1%.
  • The Black population will likely remain around 13%.
  • The percentage of foreign-born people in the population will also rise by 5.6% by 2100.

Yes, but: The bureau's estimates assume conditions on Earth will remain roughly similar to what they are today.

The big picture: The U.S. labor force may only grow by a fraction of a percentage annually between 2024 and 2031.

  • As the country ages, health care expenses are expected to surge by over 5% between 2022 and 2031, outpacing the expected growth of gross domestic product, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Go deeper: See the fastest growing (and shrinking) U.S. states

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