Births and Immigration Down; Much Work Ahead to Sustain the Trend

Published on February 26th, 2012

According to Smart Growth America, my decision to move from California to Pittsburgh to escape relentless, immigration-driven population was spot on. Over the last several years, Pittsburgh’s population declined but its average household wealth increased.

Last week, the Population Reference Bureau announced more encouraging news—and not just limited to Pittsburgh. Nationally, both the numbers of births and new immigrants fell. From July 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011 200,000 fewer babies were born and immigration dropped by 150,000 as compared to the same period from 2008-2008. The totals aren’t huge but they represent a step in the right direction. [Difficult Economy Slows US Population Growth, by Haya el Nasser, USA Today, February 18, 2012]

The U.S fertility rate, which has been at the replacement rate of 2.1 children per family, now stands at 1.9, according to Joseph Chamie, Center for Migration Studies’ research director.

Importantly, a refreshing change in growth philosophy may be underway. Bill Fulton, Smart Growth America’s vice president for policies and programs, recognizes that:

"Population does not necessarily equal economic growth anymore."

Fulton pointed to Las Vegas and Pittsburgh as examples. During the housing market’s peak, Las Vegas experienced a population boom that created low-wage jobs. But boom turned to bust when the mortgage meltdown hit. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, lost population but experienced greater fiscal prosperity.

Fulton further noted that:

“We know we can’t environmentally sustain those people living in sprawled locations. Local governments are not going to be able to afford sprawl anymore.”

Unfortunately, not all the news is good. Chamie predicts that even with the current downturn in births and immigration, the U.S. population will reach 400 million by about 2050. And Carl Haub, the Population Reference Bureau’s chief demographer, anticipates that once the recession ends, immigration (and population growth) will return to its former levels.

Environmentalists must use this window before the economy rebounds to make sure Haub is wrong. Many tools to restrict immigration and limit population growth are available but, to date, have had little Congressional success: the Legal Workforce Act that would mandate E-Verify, the Birthright Citizenship Act that would end the foolish practice of granting automatic American citizenship to any child born in the United States, SAFE for America which would end the idiotic diversity lottery and various enforcement programs like 287 (g), the SAVE Act and Secure Communities.

Any of them would put America on the road to population stabilization. All of them would ensure it.

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