Commentary: Distortion of census data leads to the myth of the baby bust
The media has been inundated with heartbreaking stories from reporters and columnists regarding 2020 census data showing a declining population growth rate from 2010. A major newspaper editorial with the headline ‘A baby who s’ accelerating in the United States” went so far as to opine that such “demographic stagnation” can lead to “declining national stature”.
The plummeting nature of this blanket is flawed and distorted, especially in the area where we live. Population growth and sprawling development suffocates the highways with huge daily traffic jams with heated debates about road expansion, toll roads and new transit lines. Schools are overcrowded, forests and natural areas are disappearing and the quality of life is deteriorating.
The facts are that the population of the United States is not declining and is not at risk of declining at any time for the foreseeable future. From 2010 to 2020, the United States grew by 23 million people, or almost four Marylands. This increase was almost the same as the average increase per decade from 1960 to 1990, and much higher than the decades of the early 20th century. Over the past 20 years, nearly 50 million people have been added to this nation. Maryland, already the fifth most densely populated state, has grown by more than 400,000 people since 2010.
The Census Bureau predicts that the US population will continue to grow significantly, even with modest immigration assumptions. A 2020 U.S. Census Bureau report found that despite a slowing rate of population growth, the U.S. population is still expected to grow by 79 million people by 2060, crossing the 400 million mark in 2058. That’s 1.8 million more people per year. Is it “demographic stagnation”?
This continued growth distinguishes the United States from many developed countries whose populations are already declining or will decline in the future. Nations with shrinking populations include economic powerhouses like Japan, Germany, Russia and South Korea. Other advanced nations with shrinking populations include Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Finland.
The United States had 331 million people in 2020, the third highest of any country. When I was born in 1944, there were 138 million people in the United States; 100 years ago, it was 108 million, less than a third of today’s population.
Additionally, doomsayers rarely note that there were 3.6 million children born in 2020 and 3.7 million in 2019.
But they note the serious repercussions of such a non-existent “birth shortage” or “baby bust” and the resulting rate of population decline. They predict potential economic collapse, a huge tax burden due to the large number of older worker bees and lack of workers, a decline in American technology and global competition, and even a threat to national security.
Left out is the fact that from 2000 to 2018, annual births were between 3.7 million and 3.9 million. As recently as 2014, births increased.
In comparison, 100 years ago, the 1920 census reported 2.9 million births.
The economy has progressed quite well without the rather drastic and costly measures that experts are calling for for women to have more children. Note that 40% of children born in 2020 were born out of wedlock, and too many were born to pre-adolescent mothers.
The decline in the fertility rate should be celebrated as it is a sure sign that a country has elevated the status of women, who are well educated with expanded job opportunities and in control of their reproduction. This is surely good news for an advanced civilization.
I learned 50 years ago that we have virtually no environmental problems that are not exacerbated by population growth – global warming, extinction crises, water shortages, air pollution and water, deforestation, loss of open space, sprawling development, traffic problems — all are compounded by human population growth.
Economic growth does not require population growth. We can grow our economy through advances in productivity through education and technology. We live in a resource-constrained world with food, water and health insecurity. With slower population growth, we can make further progress in addressing these issues and increasing our productivity as a nation and the quality of life for each of us.
These truths were recognized by a bipartisan group of Senate leaders who introduced the World Resources, Environment and People Act of 1981.
The legislation declared as US policy the promotion of national population stabilization and the encouragement of other nations to achieve population stabilization. The main sponsor, Senator Mark Hatfield, a Republican from Oregon, was joined by five other Republicans, including future Defense Secretary William Cohen of Maine and Maryland Senator Mac Mathias, as well as five Democrats, including the conservative Max Baucus of Montana and senators Bill Bradley and Gary Hart. .
This legislation was introduced during a period with the same increase in the US population as today.
There are limits to growth, and slowing or stopping population growth should be a goal and a mark of progress in the advance of civilization.
Gerald W. Winegrad ([email protected]listen)) is a former Maryland state senator and graduate school professor of environmental policy.
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