Immigration facts and consequences
100 Million More
Projecting the Impact of Immigration On the U.S. Population, 2007 to 2060
By Steven A. Camarota
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This study uses Census Bureau data to project how different levels of immigration impact population size and the aging of American society. The findings show that the current level of net immigration (1.25 million a year) will add 105 million to the nation�s population by 2060. While immigration makes the population larger, it has a small effect on the aging of society.
Among the findings:
Currently, 1.6 million legal and illegal immigrants settle in the country each year; 350,000 immigrants leave each year, resulting in net immigration of 1.25 million.
If immigration continues at current levels, the nation�s population will increase from 301 million today to 468 million in 2060 � a 167 million (56 percent) increase. Immigrants plus their descendents will account for 105 million (63 percent) of the increase.
The total projected growth of 167 million is equal to the combined populations of Great Britain, France, and Spain. The 105 million from immigration by itself is equal to 13 additional New York Cities.
If the annual level of net immigration was reduced to 300,000, future immigration would add 25 million people to the population by 2060, 80 million fewer than the current level of immigration would add.
The above projection follows exactly the Census Bureau�s assumptions about future birth and death rates, including a decline in the birth rate for Hispanics, who comprise the largest share of immigrants.
Net immigration has been increasing for five decades; if immigration continues to increase, it will add more than the projected 105 million by 2060 that will be added if immigration levels stay the same.
While immigration has a very large impact on the size of the nation�s population, it has only a small effect on slowing the aging of American society.
At the current level of net immigration (1.25 million a year), 61 percent of the nation�s population will be of working age (15-66) in 2060, compared to 60 percent if net immigration were reduced to 300,000 a year.
If net immigration was doubled to 2.5 million a year it would raise the working-age share of the population by one additional percentage point, to 62 percent, by 2060. But at that level of immigration, the U.S. population would reach 573 million, double its size in the 2000 Census.
The nation�s ongoing debate over immigration generally has not focused on the effect it has on U.S. population size.
Yet, increasing the nation�s total population is one of immigration�s clearest and most direct effects. Supporters of low immigration point to the congestion, sprawl, traffic, pollution, loss of open spaces, and greenhouse gas emissions that could be impacted by population growth. Supporters of high immigration argue that population growth may create more opportunities for businesses, workers, and consumers.
Whatever one thinks of population growth, the projected 167 million growth in the nation�s population in the next 53 years is very large. It is larger than the entire U.S. population in 1950, and it is more than the combined total populations of California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia, and New Jersey.
Even the impact of immigration by itself is enormous. The 105 million immigration will add to the population by 2060 is more than all of the population growth that occurred in United States in the first 130 years of the nation�s history after independence.
Our findings are consistent with projections done by the U.S. Census Bureau and others. Since we have used Bureau projections of death and birth rates by race and simply varied the immigration component, this is to be expected.
The Methodology Appendix at the end of the report explains in detail how the projections were created. We provide many alternative levels of immigration, leaving the reader free to judge how different immigration levels impact population size and the age structure. This report makes clear that immigration has a very large impact on the nation�s population. The question is not whether immigration levels are a key determinant of population increase � they are. The question is what costs and benefits will the increase bring. How we answer these questions will to a significant extent determine which immigration policy we pursue.
Conclusion Consistent with Census Bureau projections, we find that future immigration levels have a very large impact on population growth. Also consistent with Census projections, we find that immigration has only a small positive effect on the aging of American society. At present, 1.6 million immigrants settle in the United States annually, and 350,000 leave, for a net level of 1.25 million a year.
If that level of net immigration continues, the nation�s total population will grow by 167 million, to 468 million, by 2060. Immigrants who have yet to arrive, but who do so by 2060, plus their descendents, will account for 105 million � or 63 percent � of this future increase.
If the annual level of net immigration were 300,000 a year in the future, the population would be 80 million smaller in 2060 than if immigration continues at the current level.
While immigration has a large effect on population size, it has only a small effect on the aging of society. At the current level of net immigration, 61 percent of the nation�s population will be of working age (15-66) in 2060, compared to 60 percent if net immigration were 300,000 a year. If immigration was doubled to 3.2 million a year (2.5 million net), it would only raise the working-age share of the population one additional percentage point, to 62 percent of the population in 2060.
However, at that level, the nation�s total population would be 572 million, 272 million larger than it is today. Immigrants do tend to arrive in America relatively young, but they grow older just like native-born Americans. Immigrants admitted today become tomorrow�s retirees. And although they tend to have somewhat larger families than natives, the differences are not large enough to significantly change the nation�s age structure. As a result, immigration makes for a much larger population and more densely settled country, but can have only a small effect on the aging of society.
The debate over immigration should not be whether it makes for a much larger population � without question it does. The debate over immigration should also not be whether it has a large impact on the aging of society � without question it does not.
The central question this study raises and that Americans must answer is what costs and benefits come with having a much larger population and a more densely settled country. Some foresee a deteriorating quality of life with a larger population, including its impact on such things as pollution, congestion, loss of open spaces, and sprawl.
Others may feel that a much larger population will create more opportunities for businesses, workers, and consumers. These projections do not resolve those questions. What the projections do tell us is where we are headed as a country. The question for the nation is: Do we wish to go there?
ALSO SEE: IMMIGRANT GAINS: NATIVE LOSSES
The recovery from the recession of 2001 has been described as �jobless.� In fact, an analysis of the latest Census Bureau data shows that between March of 2000 and March of 2004, the number of adults working actually increased, but all of the net change went to immigrant workers. The number of adult immigrants (18 years of age and older) holding a job increased by over two million between 2000 and 2004, while the number of adult natives holding a job is nearly half a million fewer.
This Backgrounder also finds that the number of adult natives who are unemployed or who have withdrawn from the labor force is dramatically higher in 2004 than it was in 2000. These findings raise the possibility that immigration has adversely Affected the job prospects of native-born Americans.
Among our findings:
Between March of 2000 and 2004, the number of unemployed adult natives increased by 2.3 million, while the number of employed adult immigrants increased by 2.3 million.
Half of the 2.3 million increase in immigrant employment since 2000 is estimated to be from illegal immigration.
In addition to a growth in unemployment, the number of working age (18 to 64) natives who left the labor force entirely has increased by four million since 2000.
Even over the last year the same general pattern holds. Of the 900,000 net increase in jobs between March 2003 and 2004, two-thirds went to immigrant workers, even though they account for only 15 percent of all adult workers.