The Trump Slump Reverses

As we’ve noted several times recently, US population growth has hit an all-time low, with preliminary estimates for 2022 showing 0% growth for the first time ever. But this new low has been years in the making. Over the last 10 years, US population growth was 5.6%—total, not an annual average. As recently as 2000, it was twice that.

One reason has been a sharp slowdown in immigration, shown in the graph below. Given the timing of the slowdown, which began in 2017, it’s hard not to trace its origins to the hostility to migrants expressed by former President Donald Trump. There were, after all, no economic reasons to explain the decline; the economy was still in the midst of a long expansion. And then covid hit in 2020, further reducing the number of fresh arrivals.

But, as the graph also shows, these trends look to have reversed: immigration rebounded this year to the highest level since 2017, according to a preliminary tally from the Census Bureau. This should be good news for an economy suffering from worker shortages. With boomers retiring at a rate above historical averages, and millions of younger workers still MIA, a revived flow of motivated new arrivals could be just what we needed. The numbers aren’t huge—just 0.3% of the population—but it’s good to see a turnaround.

—Philippa Dunne & Doug Henwood