Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Demographic Milestone, of Sorts

The festivities surrounding 300 Million Day have gotten me to thinking about population growth in the US. How did we get here? Where will we go next? Okay, well maybe that last question wasn't such a good one, since 301 million seems like a pretty sure bet, but it is interesting to think about how we reached this point.

The picture below shows population growth in the US since the Civil War. Note that the "percent due to immigration" is calculated as the total immigration flow into the US during the decade (legal plus the US government's estimate of illegal immigration) divided by the total population growth during the decade.

Note: For easier comparability with other decades, the population growth rate from 2000-06 is extrapolated to show the decade-long growth rate.
Sources: Population estimates are taken from Census. Immigration estimates come from the Office of Immigration Statistics.

It's an interesting picture. Population growth in the US has been relatively low in recent decades - about 1% per year - but since the 1980s a fairly large share of that growth has been due to immigration flows.

As a result, the US population is now over 300 million. Are you feeling a bit crowded? If so, let me offer these little tidbits of perspective. While the US does have a lot of people in absolute terms - only China and India have more people - the US's share of the world population has gradually fallen since the middle of the 20th century.

Or think of it another way: a single province in India (Uttar Pradesh) has nearly two-thirds the population of the entire United States, with over 180 million people - all in an area about the size of Oregon.

So, if you live in the US, enjoy your elbow room.

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