U.S. Immigration and Population Growth (2008)


Between the years 2000 and 2006, immigration and children born to immigrant mothers added about 12.6 million people to the population of the United States. This increase was more than double the 5.4 million growth in the native-born population. If this rate of increase were to continue for seventy years, the country’s population would double — adding an additional 300 million residents to our population.

Across the country, immigration is the major source of our population growth. However, the rate of immigration-caused population growth varies widely among the states. While immigration is not as concentrated today in “gateway” states such as New York and California as it was in earlier decades, it nevertheless still predominates in those states. In both of those states, as well as several others, all population growth since 2000 is accounted for by immigration. Also in those two states and several others, there is a net outflow of native-born residents that coincides with the continuing stream of arriving immigrants. In several of those states, the native-born population has actually decreased.

This “immigrant-in/native-out” demographic pattern has significant implications for educational and social support programs and for the human capital needed for economic growth in the future — at least in the short term. The U.S. Department of Education’s report The Condition of Education 2008 stated that, “Between 1979 and 2006, the number of school-age children (ages 517) who spoke a language other than English at home increased from 3.8 to 10.8 million, or from 9 to 20 percent of the population in this age range.” Commenting on that report, Peter Zamora, regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund said, “Latino students have long underperformed versus Anglo students…and they are continuing to under-perform....[W]hen one out of five students is Hispanic, this isn’t a Latino issue, this is an American issue.”

Immigration also affects another critical element of American life — the use and availability of resources. Recent rises in petroleum, food, and other commodity prices, coupled with fresh water shortages, have reduced economic activity in the U.S. and many other countries. While many factors affect the basic economic relationship of supply and demand, increased population by its very nature tends to increase demand for both commodities and manufactured goods. And that increased demand tends to increase prices unless supply is also increased.

Similarly, Americans are increasingly aware of the relationship between population growth and its impact on the environment. Yet, policy makers have shown little willingness to focus on the underlying population growth factor that is common to these burgeoning constraint and impact issues.

Read the full report in pdf format.

July 2008