What the U.S. Should Learn From China’s Population Decline

“the U.S. largely owes its current population growth to immigrants. About 86 percent of U.S. population growth last year was the result of immigration, according to the nonpartisan Brookings Institution. China attracts far fewer newcomers, partially due to its strict immigration policy. United Nations data indicate that China received just 200,000 immigrants between 2010 and 2020. “The United States, by contrast, added more than 6 million new immigrant residents,” writes Washington Post columnist Philip Bump. “China’s increase from immigration was about 0.01 percent of its total population; the United States’ was almost 2 percent.””

“the U.S. may be squandering its immigration advantage. Over half of America’s top startups were founded by immigrants, but the U.S. has no visa pathway specifically devoted to foreigners who want to start a business and remain in the country. Massive visa backlogs mean that thousands of talented immigrants are caught in a decadeslong holding pattern, unable to secure permanent residency. International students are losing interest in the U.S. as a destination.”

Yes, you can have kids and fight climate change at the same time

“Total births and the general fertility rate in the US have fallen significantly over the past 15 years. While 2021 saw a 1 percent increase in births from the year before — the likely result of planned pregnancies postponed during the first difficult year of the pandemic, plus the reproductive benefits of remote work — that number was still more than half a million fewer than the US peak in 2007. The total fertility rate — the number of children women are projected to give birth to over the course of their lifetimes — stood at 1.67, well below the point needed to replace the population through reproduction alone. Nearly one in six Americans 55 and over is childless, a percentage that is only expected to grow. Without the boost of immigration, the US population growth rate would have essentially flatlined in recent years, and even with it, it grew by just 0.4 percent in 2022, among the lowest rates in the nation’s history.”

“America has room for more children; it needs them to thrive; and most of all, people do want the freedom to choose the family sizes they desire, including larger ones. It’s a future that progressives can — and should — help create.”

” while it’s true that a child born today will be responsible for adding more carbon into the atmosphere, that 60-metric-ton figure was derived from work by researchers in 2009 who added up not just the lifetime emissions of the child, but dwindling portions of the lifetime emissions of that child’s descendants, all the way until 2400 — and making all of that the responsibility of the parents. And that number assumes that the world will make no additional progress in decarbonizing the global economy, which already isn’t true. In a rich country like the US, a baby born today will emit less CO2 on average over the course of their lifetime than their parents did; according to the International Energy Agency, if the world achieves carbon neutrality by 2050, the carbon footprint of those New Year’s babies could be 10 times smaller than that of their grandparents.”

“As for those fears that having a child would doom them to life in a hot hellscape, the world now appears to be on a path to dodge the worst-case climate scenarios. This isn’t to minimize the very real suffering that will be unavoidable thanks to warming, especially in poorer countries, but a child born today almost anywhere around the world has a better chance of living a good, long life than at almost any other time in the whole of human history.”

“an aging country is one that will have a dwindling number of young workers to support a growing number of elderly. Today there are around three and a half working-age adults to support every American eligible for Social Security. By 2060, that is projected to fall to two and a half workers for every retiree. Social Security isn’t a Ponzi scheme, but without enough young workers putting in payroll taxes, it can’t continue in its current form.”

“A study of 33 OECD nations between 1960 and 2012 found that while countries can remain inventive even as they age, rates of innovation eventually begin to stagnate and decline. As a 44-year-old it pains me to say this, but creativity is a quality most concentrated in the young.”

“The average cost of child care in the US now exceeds $10,000 a year. That’s an enormous burden for working- and middle-class families, but it also discourages people who would have more children from doing so. Reducing the cost of care is one of the few proven ways of boosting fertility over the long term”

“while the most effective way to grow population over the long term is the old-fashioned one — have more children — liberalizing immigration to add more Americans would pay off immediately.”

Overturning Roe v. Wade Could Make Maternal Mortality Even Worse

“Giving birth in the U.S. is already far more dangerous than in other wealthy countries. Ending the protections of Roe v. Wade — the 1973 decision that established the constitutional right to abortion — could make it even more so.

Multiple studies have found that the states that already have the tightest restrictions on abortion also have the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality. And that correlation stubbornly persists even after researchers account for some of the other differences between states, like racial demographics and health care policy. Some researchers think that abortion restrictions are part of the reason why pregnancy and childbirth are so much more dangerous in the U.S. — even for people who never wanted an abortion to begin with.

This data could just be a statistical red herring. But there are ways abortion restrictions could kill people, both directly and indirectly. And scientists say these correlations point toward dangerous disparities in health care access in the U.S. — not just in terms of who can get an abortion, but also in terms of who can get preventative care while pregnant, or even before.”

“Carrying an unplanned pregnancy involves shouldering increased risks of depression, preterm birth, lower birth weight and other complications.”

“Recently released government data shows that 861 women died from causes related to pregnancy and birth in 2020, up from 754 the year before. In population-level terms, the maternal mortality rate in 2020 was 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in the U.S., compared with 3.2 deaths per 100,000 live births in Germany in 2019 and 7.9 deaths per 100,000 live births in France in 2015. (The maternal mortality rate calculated by the CDC includes deaths from abortion-related complications, but the organization also calculates that subset separately. In 2019, the death rate from abortion in the United States was minuscule: 0.41 deaths per 100,000 legal abortions between 2013 and 2018.) Infants are also at higher risk of dying in the U.S. than in other wealthy countries. In 2020, the infant mortality rate in the U.S. was 5.4 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared with 1.9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in Finland and 2.7 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in Spain.

Black Americans are nearly three times more likely than their white counterparts to die as a result of maternal complications, and the risk to Black babies is much higher as well. These disparities are so large that the states with the highest maternal mortality rates are also often states with large Black populations, and researchers have concluded that social factors like inequality and structural racism are playing a huge role in why pregnancy complications kill Americans.

But some researchers think that attempts to restrict abortion access are playing a part too.”

“The simplest explanation is just that giving birth is statistically more dangerous than having an abortion. If the states with the highest mortality rates are the also the ones banning abortion that means more births — and also more deaths.”

“efforts to reduce abortion access have often resulted in the closure of clinics like Planned Parenthood that offer a range of non-abortion-related services. Losing access to preventative health care puts people at a higher risk for all kinds of illnesses that can later cause pregnancy complications. And this effect means the impacts of abortion restriction can overlap and build on the social inequalities that are already harming Black people and babies.”

The great population growth slowdown

“Fewer babies were born in New York City in 2020 than any year on record, while the US population grew by just 0.1 percent in the year between July 2020 and July 2021, with the country adding just 392,665 people from net migration and births over deaths.

That’s the lowest numeric increase since the Census Bureau began making annual population estimates at the beginning of the 20th century. On a percentage basis, it’s the lowest growth in the nation’s history.

Increased deaths from the pandemic plays a role, as do inevitably creeping mortality rates in an aging population. But the primary cause is declining fertility rates, as fewer Americans have children, and those that do tend to have smaller families. The total fertility rate in the US — an estimate of the average total number of children a woman will have over her lifetime — has declined from 2.12 in 2007 to 1.64 in 2020, well below the 2.1 needed for a population to replace itself without immigration.”

“By one estimate, half the world’s population lives in countries with below-replacement-level fertility, and nations like Japan — with very low birth rates and little immigration — are already experiencing population decline.

China, which became a symbol for population control with its coercive one-child policy, now has a fertility rate even lower than Japan’s, and the government is struggling to convince shrinking numbers of young people to have more children — or any children at all.”

“there’s some evidence that many people aren’t having as many children as they would like to. Surveys in the US show that the stated ideal number of kids in a family has stayed a little above 2.5 since the mid-2000s, even as actual fertility rates have declined. Whether because of delayed partnership and marriage, economic concerns, or changing lifestyle preferences, there are forces keeping population growth below the level that people say they want.”

The census shows the US needs to increase immigration — by a lot

“There are two main ways that the US could increase overall population growth: by encouraging people to have more children or by increasing immigration levels.

On their own, pro-natalist policies have historically failed to increase birthrates in the kinds of numbers that would be required to stave off stagnant population growth. Internationally, research has shown that child allowances have led to slight, short-lived bumps in birthrates. From 2007 to 2010, Spain had a child allowance that led to a temporary 3 percent increase in birthrates, but that was mostly because more people decided to have children earlier, rather than have more of them. After the allowance was revoked, the birthrate decreased 6 percent.”

“Immigration is a much more reliable driver of population growth. The average age of newly arriving immigrants is 31, which is more than seven years younger than the median American, meaning that they could help replace an aging workforce. They are also more entrepreneurial, which encourages economic dynamism, and more likely to work in essential industries, such as health care, transportation, construction, agriculture, and food processing.

Immigrants may also help stave off regional population declines. Immigrants are more likely to settle in areas where foreign-born populations already live, which are typically large metro areas that have lost population in recent years. Frey found in a 2019 report that, of the 91 large metro areas that gained population since the beginning of the decade, 15 would have actually lost population were it not for immigration, including New York, Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia. In another 11 large metro areas, immigration accounted for more than half of their population growth.

Refugees are also more likely to settle in less dense population centers where housing costs are lower, possibly reinvigorating the nearly 35 percent of rural counties in the US that have experienced significant population loss in recent decades.

Raising immigration levels wouldn’t necessarily require a major reimagining of the US immigration system, though that might offer more flexibility to reevaluate immigration levels periodically — it could be accomplished by just increasing the caps on existing forms of visas and green cards.”

The case for more — many more — Americans

“If you survey Americans about how many children they want, on average they say about 2.5. That includes the ones like me who want six and the ones who want zero. But while people want 2.5 kids on average, in practice they have fewer — about 1.72 in 2018, the book says. Increasing America’s population needn’t involve regression from modern liberal ideas. It would just require making it possible for people to get the thing that they already want.

The book’s proposed policy changes are mostly changes at the margins — more immigration but not open borders, an expansion of public education to also provide free preschool and day care, subsidies and tax credits for parents, fixes to our housing and transportation policy so the cost of living isn’t intolerable.

Despite its simplicity — maybe because of its simplicity — it’s compelling. Matt Yglesias thinks America is good and it’d be good if everyone who’d benefit the country was allowed to live here and everyone who lived here was able to have their ideal family size. And while that simple vision elides a lot of challenges — some of which are beyond its scope — its vision of America is at least worth rooting for.”

America is failing Black moms during the pandemic

“Black women are disproportionately impacted, dying in childbirth at three to four times the rate of white women.”

“Many factors contribute to overall maternal mortality in the US, from underlying conditions like diabetes to a lack of adequate health insurance. All of these disproportionately impact Black women — Black Americans, for example, are 60 percent more likely than whites to be diagnosed with diabetes. And 11.5 percent of Black Americans were uninsured as of 2018, compared with just 7.5 percent of whites.”

“For Black women, “even when we get prenatal care,” Crear-Perry explained, “even when we are normal weight and not obese, even when we have no underlying medical conditions, we are still more likely to die in childbirth than our white counterparts.” In New York City, for example, a 2016 study found that Black patients with a college education were more likely to have pregnancy or childbirth complications than white patients who hadn’t graduated from high school.”

“Part of the issue is that providers treat Black patients differently from white ones. Black women and other women of color often aren’t listened to when they express pain or discomfort, Jamila Taylor, director of health care reform at the Century Foundation, told Vox.
Racist beliefs about people’s bodies and their ability to experience pain are shockingly widespread: Half of the white medical students and residents surveyed in one 2016 study, for example, believed at least one myth about racial differences in pain perception, such as the idea that Black people’s nerve endings are less sensitive than white people’s. The more myths someone believed, the more likely that person was to underestimate a Black patient’s pain.”

“Advocates have long been calling for greater access to non-hospital births, whether at a birthing center or at home, as a way to combat the discrimination Black patients and other patients of color can face in hospital settings. “Other countries that have better outcomes than we do create a system and a network of birth centers and home births that allow for people to make choices based upon their needs,” Crear-Perry said.”

The U.S. Baby Bust Continues

“The number of babies American women are having continues to fall”

“The total number of births for the United States in 2019 was 3,745,540, down 1 percent from 3,791,712 in 2018. The report notes that this is the fifth year that the number of births has declined after an increase in 2014, and the lowest number of births since 1986.”

“The U.S. TFR is now similar to that of many other countries, including those that make up the European Union (1.543), Australia (1.74), New Zealand (1.71), Japan (1.42), South Korea (0.977), Brazil (1.73), and China (1.69). This mirrors the decadeslong global trend of women choosing to bear ever fewer children over the course of their lifetimes. Global total fertility stood at more than five children per woman in 1964 and is well on its way toward below replacement levels, having now dropped to 2.415 children per woman as of 2018.”

U.S. Population Growth Rate Lowest in a Century, Says New Report

“”In the United States, fewer births and more deaths reduced population growth to a 100-year low,” reports a new study by demographers at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). They add that “in nearly 46 percent of counties, more people died than were born last year.”
As I reported last year, the U.S. total fertility rate fell in 2018 to 1.73 births per woman, the lowest rate ever recorded. In general, the U.S. total fertility rate was been below replacement fertility—the level at which a given generation can exactly replace itself, usually defined as 2.1 births per woman—since 1971.”

“Interestingly, the low—that is to say, negative—population growth in 1919 was largely the result of the decimation caused by the Spanish flu pandemic. Between July 1918 and July 1919, U.S. population actually dropped by 60,000 people.”