A February 2020 report from the U.S. Census Bureau examines the effect on the U.S. population by 2060 if immigration were to continue at current rates, higher rates, lower rates or if immigration to the U.S. were cut to zero.
Of particular interest is the “low immigration scenario”, which presumes immigration being cut to half of its 2011 to 2015 rates, or roughly to 515,000 new permanent residents iannually. This scenario is relevant since recent administration policies are putting the country on the fast track to that low annual number, including:
- reducing the refugee resettlement cap in FY 2020 by more than 90,000 people compared to FY 2017;
- the recently expanded travel ban:
- 11,196 citizens from the newly added countries immigrated to the U.S. in FY 2019 who would have been blocked under the expanded travel ban had it been in effect;
- the existing 2017 travel ban:
- 25,547 citizens of Iran, Korea, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen immigrated in FY 2016 (the last fiscal year prior to the travel ban);
- the new public charge rule, effective on February 24, 2020, whose English language proficiency and other new tests may make about half of all family-based immigrants ineligible to immigrate if they cannot show a household income of at least 250% of the annual federal poverty guidelines ($65,500 for a family of four in 2020), resulting in an estimated 300,000 fewer immigrants annually, including spouses of U.S. citizens.
Under its low immigration scenario, the news when considering a vibrant workforce, is somber. The Census bureau projects:
- more than 20% of the U.S. population nationwide will be older than 65 by 2026;
- the number of people over age 65 will exceed those under age by 2031 (others project Maine will reach that tipping point in 2020);
- the number of children below age 18 will decline by a million by 2060;
- total U.S. population will increase by only 16% by 2060
Maintaining current immigration levels, or increasing them, would delay or mitigate all of these effects.
As this Brookings analysis of the Census Bureau report states, the
projections show that the current level of immigration is essential for our nation’s future growth, especially in sustaining the younger population.
If the U.S. wants to continue to have vibrant communities and a robust workforce and economy, the administration’s trend towards policies that reduce immigration may prove not to be in the nation’s best interest.