Wednesday, October 18, 2006

As US Population Nears 300m, a Brief Look at the Crisis Ahead.

The next 100 million and the face of America

As many of you are aware, the population of the US is expected to hit 300 million people this week. This article presents an interesting look at the trends, and at the shortages that may follow.

Predictably, it cites curbing immigration, not births, as a solution. Why is it that when European counties face population shortages, the government bribes people to have children, but do not look to immigration to solve the problem - but when we are facing the opposite problem we react this way?
There will be 400 million Americans in 2043, climbing to 420 million by midcentury, the US Census Bureau estimates. The added numbers will change the nature of the populace, reflecting trends already begun.
. . .
Between the last official census in 2000 and the one of 2050, non-Wars, natural disasters, shifts in the economy, unforeseen social and political developments - any or all of these could affect the numbers, perhaps dramatically. For one thing, America could, as many voters and their elected officials now demand, clamp down on immigration. The country's unusually high teen pregnancy rate could drop. Scientific advances could extend longevity.
. . .
The impact of the aging baby-boom generation, whose oldest members turn 60 this year, will be felt on Social Security and Medicare. "We really are doing very well in terms of extending life, and that is going to increase the rate of population growth," says Samuel Preston, a University of Pennsylvania demographer. It could also have political impact.

As the US moves toward 400 million people, Americans can be expected to marry later in life, and more of them will live alone. Between 1970 and 2005, the median age of first marriage moved from 23 to 27 for men and from 21 to 26 for women. Over the same period, the percentage of single-person households grew from 17 percent to 26 percent. Those trends are likely to continue.
. . .
Concerns about use of resources
This kind of continuing development tied to US population growth worries many environmentalists, as well as those concerned about the loss of farmland.

Annual US population growth of nearly 3 million contributes to the water shortages that are a serious concern in the West and many areas in the East, says Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute. Water tables are now falling throughout most of the Great Plains and in the Southwest, he warns. Some lakes are disappearing and rivers are running dry.

"As water supplies tighten, the competition between farmers and cities intensifies," says Mr. Brown. "Scarcely a day goes by in the western United States without another farmer or an entire irrigation district selling their water rights to cities like Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, or San Diego."

Concern about a growing populace and decreasing resources is likely to push governments toward conservation and more sustainable development, experts say.

This may be especially true of energy. Nineteen states and theDistrict of Columbia now have renewable portfolio standards that require electric utilities to use more wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and other renewable sources.
. . .
Meanwhile, the US population clock keeps ticking: Every 13 seconds somebody dies. Every 31 seconds there's another immigrant - legal or illegal. It adds up to a net gain of one person every 11 seconds, or about 8,000 every day. It took 39 years to add the most recent 100 million; the next 100 million will take a couple of years less than that.

The US population growth rate is expected to decline a bit by mid-century. Still, by then the numbers will have increased to some 420 million, according to official calculations. Critics of US immigration policy say the number could be significantly higher.

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Logical guy said...

The US population is an interesting one. The birth rate is much higher than other 'Western', affluent countries, for reasons that are not fully understood, although religion is given, together with .

I recall there was a modelling of the US population in the well known mathematics book Calculus by Anton, and there was a high correlation to that of the population being controlled by the availability of resourses - although I don't think it fully stated what these resourses were. You can also look up these by doing a google search of "modelling US population" (no quotes).

Anonymous said...

This is great.
I also followed the links above - I'm happily child-free, and I also love this site -

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your interesting post!
Once you have cited the work of Prof. Samuel Preston, perhaps you may find it interesting to take a look at discussion of his book "Fatal Years":
Longevity Science: Fatal Years

L.T. said...

The above comment looked a bit self-promotional, and not quite relevant. But since it was about one of the Profs quoted in the article/post, I decided to let it through . . . for those of you who might have worried I stopped moderating.

I do post all relevant comments, regardless of viewpoint. So if you disagree, feel free to comment!