Wednesday, December 12, 2012

New Projections Show Much Slower Population Growth

A lot has happened since the last time the Census Bureau produced national population projections: a recession, a baby bust, a 2010 census that counted 3 million fewer non-Hispanic whites than expected, and two elections in which minorities flexed their political muscle with profound results. How do the Census Bureau's new projections capture these events and what will be their impact on the nation's future population? Let's take a look.

Much slower population growth. The Census Bureau's new projections show a population of just 399.8 million in 2050. This is much less than the 439.0 million projected for 2050 in the previous set of projections (produced in 2008).

Non-Hispanic white decline. The new projections show the number of non-Hispanic whites peaking in 2024 at just under 200 million and declining steadily after that. As a share of the population, however, non-Hispanic whites will remain above 50 percent until 2043. Non-Hispanic whites are already in decline among Americans under age 45. The non-Hispanic white share of the younger population will fall below 50 percent in 2027. Among the nation's children (under age 18), the non-Hispanic white share is projected to fall below 50 percent in 2018.

No baby bust in projections. The Census Bureau's forecast of slowing population growth may not be conservative enough. The projections assume the addition of well more than 4 million infants (under age 1) each year, including 4.2 million in 2012. Yet, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, the provisional number of births for the 12 months ending in June 2012 was just 3.9 million.

Source: Census Bureau, 2012 National Population Projections

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