2023 National population projections are out

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Immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, New York, on May 27, 1920 (Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

The U.S. population is projected to reach a high of nearly 370 million in 2080 before edging downward to 366 million in 2100.

By 2100, the total U.S. resident population is projected to increase by only 9.7 percent from 2022, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau population projections released December 9. The projections provide possible scenarios of population change for the nation through the end of the century.

The 2023 National Population Projections is an update to the last series of projections, published in 2017, to account for the impact of COVID and to reflect the results of the 2020 Census through its inclusion of the Vintage 2022 National Population Estimates as a base. It also extends the population projections to 2100, the first time since 2000 that the Census Bureau projections have stretched this far into the future.

“In an ever-changing world, understanding population dynamics is crucial for shaping policies and planning resources,” stated Sandra Johnson, a demographer at the Census Bureau.

“The U.S. has experienced notable shifts in the components of population change over the last five years,” she said. “Some of these, like the increases in mortality caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, are expected to be short-term while others, including the declines in fertility that have persisted for decades, are likely to continue into the future.

Incorporating additional years of data on births, deaths and international migration into our projections process resulted in a slower pace of population growth through 2060 than was previously projected.”

Projections illustrate possible courses of population change based on assumptions about future births, deaths and net international migration.

The 2023 projections include a main series or middle series considered the most likely outcome of four assumptions, and three alternative immigration scenarios that show how the population might change under high, low and zero immigration assumptions.

Key points: Total population

By 2100, the total population in the middle series is projected to reach 366 million compared to the projection for the high-immigration scenario, which puts the population at 435 million. The population for the middle series increases to a peak at 370 million in 2080 and then begins to decline, dropping to 366 million in 2100.

The high-immigration scenario increases every year and is projected to reach 435 million by 2100.

The low-immigration scenario is projected to peak at around 346 million in 2043 and decline thereafter, dropping to 319 million in 2100.

Though largely illustrative, the zero-immigration scenario projects that population declines would start in 2024 in the complete absence of foreign-born immigration. This scenario is projected to net 226 million in 2100, roughly 107 million lower than the 2022 estimate.

Drivers of population change

In each of the projection scenarios except for the zero-immigration scenario, immigration is projected to become the largest contributor to population growth.

In the middle series and the high-immigration scenario, net international migration is higher than natural increase (the difference between births and deaths) in all years of the time series. For the low-immigration scenario, this crossover happens in 2029.

Reduced fertility and an aging population result in natural decrease—an excess of deaths relative to births—in all projection scenarios. This happens in 2038 in the main series, 2033 in the zero-immigration scenario, 2036 in the low-immigration scenario, and in 2042 in the high-immigration scenario.

Age and sex

Continued declines in fertility are projected to shift the age structure of the population so that there will be more adults age 65 or older compared to children under age 18.

In the middle series, the share of the population in the older age group surpasses that of the younger age group in 2029 and, by 2100, 29.1 percent of the population is projected to be age 65 or older compared to 16.4 percent under age 18.

This crossover happens in 2030 in the high-immigration scenario, 2029 in the low-immigration scenario, and 2028 in the zero-immigration scenario.

The share of the population age 65 or older in 2100 ranges from 27.4 percent in the high-immigration scenario to 35.6 percent in the zero-immigration scenario. Similarly, the median age of the U.S. population, which represents the age at which half the population is older and half is younger, is projected to increase over time in all projection scenarios.

In 2022, the median age for the total population was 38.9. In 2100, this is projected to increase to 47.9 in the middle series, 46.5 in the high-immigration scenario, 49.2 in the low-immigration scenario, and 53.6 in the zero-immigration scenario.

Median age is currently higher for females, who tend to have longer life expectancies at birth compared to males, and this trend is projected to continue. In the middle series it is projected that in 2100, the median age for females will be 49.1 and the median age for males will be 46.8.

Projected median age in 2100 for females ranges from 47.7 in the high-immigration scenario to 54.8 in the zero-immigration scenario.

For males, the projected values in 2100 range from 45.4 in the high-immigration scenario to 52.5 in the zero-immigration scenario.

Race and Hispanic origin

Non-Hispanic white alone was the most prevalent race or ethnic group in the United States in 2022 (58.9 percent), followed by Hispanic (19.1 percent) and non-Hispanic black alone (12.6 percent). Although the share of the population in each of these groups is projected to change over time, these three groups are projected to remain the most prevalent through 2060 in all immigration scenarios.

In 2060, the non-Hispanic white alone population is projected to decline to 44.9 percent in the middle series, 42.7 percent in the high-immigration scenario, 46.6 percent in the low-immigration scenario, and to 50.7 percent in the zero-immigration scenario.

At the same time, the Hispanic population is projected to increase to 26.9 percent in the middle series in 2060, 27.8 percent in the high-immigration scenario, 26.2 percent in the low-immigration scenario, and to 24.6 percent in the zero-immigration scenario.

The non-Hispanic black alone population is expected to remain at around 13 percent in 2060 in all of the immigration scenarios.

Nativity

The projected share of the population that is foreign-born is highly influenced by assumptions regarding international migration.

In 2022, 13.9 percent of the U.S. population was foreign-born. In the main series, this share is projected to increase to 19.5 percent in 2100, while the high-immigration scenario projects an increase to 24.4 percent and the low-immigration scenario projects an increase to 14.9 percent.

The zero-immigration scenario projects a decline in the share of the population that is foreign-born to 0.3 percent in 2100.

2023 Current Population Survey analysis

The Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS) shows that the total foreign-born or immigrant population (legal and illegal) was 49.5 million in October 2023—a 4.5 million increase since 2021 and a new record high. At 15 percent, the foreign-born share of the U.S. population is also the highest ever recorded in American history.

As the debate rages over the ongoing border crisis, this finding is important because administrative numbers such as border encounters or even legal immigrant arrivals do not measure the actual size of the immigrant population, which is what ultimately determines immigration’s impact on the country.

Key findings

In October 2023, the CPS showed that 15 percent of the U.S. population is now foreign-born—higher than any U.S. government survey or census has ever recorded.

The 49.5 million foreign-born residents (legal and illegal) in October is also a new record high.

Since January 2021, the foreign-born population has grown by 4.5 million—larger than the individual populations of 25 U.S. states.

Based on prior estimates of illegal immigrants, more than half (2.5 million) of the 4.5 million increase in the foreign-born population since January 2021 is likely due to illegal immigration. If adjusted for those missed by the survey, the increase would be larger.

The 4.5 million increase overall and the 2.5 million increase in illegal immigrants are both net figures. The number of new arrivals was significantly higher, but offset by outmigration and natural mortality among the foreign-born already here.

The foreign-born population has grown on average by 137,000 a month since 2021, compared to 42,000 a month prior to Covid.

The scale of immigration is so high that it appears to have made the new Census Bureau population projections at the beginning of this article from December 9, obsolete. The bureau projected that the foreign-born share would not hit 15 percent until 2033.

The largest percentage increases since January 2021 are for immigrants from South America (up 28 percent); Central America (up 25 percent); Sub-Saharan Africa (up 21 percent); Caribbean (up 20 percent); and the Middle East (up 14 percent).

Immigrants from all of Latin America increased by 2.9 million since January 2021, accounting for 63 percent of the total increase in the foreign-born.

While a large share of the recent foreign-born growth is due to illegal immigration, legal immigrants still account for three-fourths of the total foreign-born population.

The current scale of immigration (legal and illegal) into the U.S. is significant. The October 2023 CPS collected by the Census Bureau, shows that 15 percent of the U.S. population is now foreign-born—the largest share on record. The prior record was 14.8 percent, 133 years ago in 1890. The immigrant share of the population has more than tripled since 1970 and nearly doubled since 1990. The number of immigrants has increased five-fold since 1970, 2.5 times since 1990, and is up 59 percent since 2000. The 49.5 million foreign-born residents now living in the U.S. is a new record high in American history.

It is likely that more than half of this increase, 2.5 million, is from new illegal immigration. This recent growth has important implications for everything from the nation’s education and healthcare systems to its physical infrastructure and labor force. Perhaps the most fundamental question these numbers raise is whether America can successfully incorporate and assimilate this many people.

The size and growth of the immigrant population is not static. Legal immigration continues at least at a pre-Covid pace, and illegal immigration remains high.

If all immigration were to continue at the current level, we project that the total foreign-born population will reach nearly 59 million and 17.3 percent of population by the end of December 2028.

Adding so many people to the country so fast may please employers and immigration advocacy groups, but any serious discussion of immigration policy has to grapple with these numbers and the implications they have for American society.

Source:

  1. 2023 National Population Projections U.S. Census Bureau updates its population projections as new data on births, deaths and migration become available.
  2. 2023 Current Population Survey section: The Center for Immigration Studies is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit research organization founded in 1985. It is the nation’s only think tank devoted exclusively to research and policy analysis of the economic, social, demographic, fiscal, and other impacts of immigration on the U.S.

See the graphic version of this article in the November December 2023 flip book version.