Stemming demographic winter: Immigrants slow population decline in many counties

The Pew Research Center has determined that if current immigration trends and birth rates continue, by 2050 virtually all (93%) of the nation’s working age population growth will come from immigrants and their U.S.-born children. The absolute decline of native born workers is an element in the Demographic Winter. Immigrants bring with them the Spring.

Pew has published an overview of immigrant/native born demographic shifts by county, metro area and state. Its summary:

Over the past 25 years, the total immigrant population has increased and spread across the country. In 1990, the foreign-born population was 19.7 million or 7.9% of the U.S. total, with nearly 3 out of 4 immigrants (73%) living in either California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, or Texas. By 2010, approximately 40 million immigrants made up 13% of the overall population, and the proportion of immigrants residing in the six leading states dropped to 65%.

This brief illustrates how, in some places, an influx of foreign-born individuals slowed overall population loss and even reversed it. This is consistent with past research that has found that immigration continues to shape the country’s demography, particularly in newer immigrant destinations. The Chicago Council on Global Affairs has shown that immigration has mitigated population loss in the Midwest at the state level and in metropolitan areas. This brief updates and expands on previous research by providing a county-level analysis of the entire nation over two decades and presenting the demographic context for future research on the impact of immigration on state and local economies and budgets.

We find four key trends.

Immigrants have moved beyond traditional gateways.

Native-born population has declined in Middle America.

Immigration has driven population growth in the Sun Belt, Pacific Northwest, and Mountain States. Increases in the number of immigrants have driven overall growth in many counties, particularly in the South and West.

Immigration has slowed population declines in Middle America.

The median age of the total U.S. population is rising, and the ratio of seniors (ages 65+) to working age people (ages 25-64) is increasing. Immigration mitigates these trends by adding working age adults to the U.S. population. Nearly half of immigrants admitted between 2003 and 2012 were between the ages of 20 and 40, while only 5% were ages 65 or older.

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