Good and possibly great news: the U.S. birthrate continues to trend lower, now at the lowest on record since 1920, the year when the federal government first gathered and stored reliable statistics.
For the most recent year, the fertility rate dropped to 62 births per 1,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its National Center for Health Statistics. This is less than half of the peak of the Baby Boom in 1957, when there were 122.7 births per 1,000.
Looking at a micro picture, the birthrate among foreign-born women also continues to trend lower, although slowly, and still remains “markedly higher than those of U.S.-born women,” accounting for 23 percent of the babies born in the U.S., according to the Pew Research Center.
The multi-year trend downwards should be seen as a positive, but alarmists, expansionists and immigration advocates hail high birth rates, viewing a declining population as a negative. They suggest that declining birth rates, including in the immigrant community, could have dire long-term economic and social policy consequences. They maintain that immigration provides a growing, taxpaying workforce to support entitlement programs for an aging U.S. baby-boom generation.
The pro-growth claims are false. Let’s debunk by starting with separating fact from fiction about the immigrant population’s age.
From a March 2017 Migration Policy Institute report: “The median age of immigrants was 44.4 years, compared to 36.1 years for the native born.” And from the National Review, “One in five family members brought in through chain immigration is more than 50 years old.”
The case, then, for high immigration so that younger workers’ tax payments will support federal programs for aging Americans doesn’t hold up when a lot of grandparents are mixed into the formula. While immigration doesn’t transform America into a younger nation, it does make it more crowded. Immigrants and births to immigrants pushed the foreign-born U.S. population to 45 million in 2015, and is expected to balloon to 78 million by 2065.
As for the younger immigrants, they grow old too, a rarely mentioned reality, but one which The New York Times, atypically, addressed in its story, “Immigrant Struggles Compounded by Old Age.” Because they earn “significantly less” during their working lives than native-born, according to the Times article, two out of every three elderly New York immigrants live below the poverty line and need more public and private financial aid.
Scrutinized in their totality, arguments for more growth through immigration and births to immigrants don’t hold. Going forward, the U.S. will not create enough jobs for native-born Americans, and certainly not enough for a growing, unsustainably high legal immigrant population. The environmental community must take up the challenge that naturalist David Attenborough suggested – to lead the call for a courageous discussion about the nation-changing long-term consequences of high population growth which drives migration.
In his speech to the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, Attenborough called the concept that older people will indefinitely need ever-more young people, who will in turn grow old and need even more young people, “an obvious ecological Ponzi scheme” which will, as these schemes all do, blow up.
In the U.S., the overpopulation-driven Ponzi scheme that Attenborough identifies has reached the brink, a point at which the options are slowing growth or collapse.