Immigrants Propel Population Growth in 10% of U.S. Counties
About one in 10 U.S. counties grew in the fiscal year that ended last June primarily because of immigration—a significant increase from 2011—showing how new arrivals are shaping the nation as the population ages and the birthrate slows, new census figures show.
The share of U.S. population growth that comes from immigration has risen steadily since the start of the decade, when the fallout from the financial crisis prompted many people to delay having children.
That fertility lull has lasted longer than expected, and it overlaps with a large cohort of baby boomers facing retirement and rising death rates.
As the net gain in U.S. births vs. deaths wanes, immigrants continue to be a main source for maintaining population growth. Census Bureau data released Thursday show how new arrivals to the U.S. are filling the void in areas across the nation.
*International migration was greater than combined gain/loss from natural growth and domestic migration
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
The share of U.S. population growth attributable to immigrants hit 48% for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2018, up from 35% in fiscal 2011.
The result is a country that is becoming increasingly dependent on immigrants to fill jobs and fund programs like Social Security and Medicare, economists said.
“We have a situation where U.S. fertility rates are really low and we’re not actively adding to the workforce through natural increase,” said Aparna Mathur, a resident scholar of economic policy at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington. “We cannot afford to talk about immigrants as bad for the U.S. economy.”
Separate federal statistics released last year suggest that a number of women who put off having babies after the 2007-09 recession are forgoing them altogether. The general fertility rate in 2017 for women age 15 to 44 was 60.2 births per 1,000 women—the lowest since the government began tracking it more than a century ago, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Public health advocates credit in part the broader use of long-acting birth control such as intrauterine devices, though many factors are likely at play.
Kenneth M. Johnson, a senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire, estimated that lower teen fertility accounts for about one-third of the overall decline in births among U.S. women.
The increase in women attending college is another force behind the birth decline, researchers say, because women with more skills face a greater financial trade-off if they pause their careers for children
Still, the continued decline has flummoxed demographers, who expected a greater recovery in birthrates as effects of the recession faded.
For the last fiscal year, 298 of the nation’s 3,142 counties grew primarily because of immigration instead of a surplus of births over deaths and from people moving around the country, according to the new Census Bureau figures. That is up from 247 counties in 2011, the earliest data in the figures released Thursday.
These counties include parts of large metro areas, such as most of the San Francisco Bay and the counties that contain San Diego, Houston, Dallas, Miami and Boston, as well as some of their suburban counties.
It is also the case for the counties that contain Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Dayton in Ohio, Buffalo, N.Y., Albuquerque, Nashville and Burlington, Vt. It includes suburban counties around New York City, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and St. Louis. And it encompasses scattered rural counties, especially in the Midwest.
Fourteen states and the District of Columbia drew on immigration for more than half of their growth last fiscal year, including Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
The figures encompass people moving to and from the U.S., including an influx from Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017. Migration from Puerto Rico is counted as immigration by the Census Bureau though the island is a U.S. territory and its residents are U.S. citizens.
Since 2010, the biggest share of immigrants—41%—has come from Asia, according to separate census figures. A fifth, or 21%, has come from Mexico and Central America, a flow of migrants that President Trump has sought to stem.
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