One of the most interesting, and counter-intuitive, findings from the newly released 2020 U.S. Census is that our nation’s population is hitting historic lows. Fewer and fewer Americans are becoming mothers and fathers. Population growth has not been as low as it is now since the 1930s under the challenges of the Great Depression. And we on a longer and more sustained downward trend, population-wise, than in previous times.
William H. Frey, the senior fellow of demography at the center-left Brookings Institution explains this new data marks “the second-lowest population growth in U.S. history.” At 7.4%, this anemic population growth rate is only slightly higher than the dismal historic low we saw in the 1930s at 7.3%.
Dr. Frey explains this current slowdown “is roughly half the 13.2% growth rate of the 1990s, when immigration was high and the last part of the millennial generation was born.”
Even The New York Times laments that this means “there are now more Americans 80 and older than 2 or younger.” This is certainly not a positive turn. In fact, Ronald Lee, founder of the Center for the Economics and Demography of Aging and a Professor of Population Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley believes this new low in American fertility “is a big deal.” He adds, “If it stays lower like this, it means the end of American exceptionalism in this regard.”
The reason for this is basic. Every nation, in order to thrive and grow economically and creatively, must intentionally create the next generation of teachers, health-care providers, business-starters, inventors, public servants, military professionals, not to mention customers and taxpayers. And each one of these start as something called babies. They don’t just come around naturally like the 5:15 bus.
If citizens of a nation do not create its next generation, that either means the stagnation of the nation or recruiting people from other cultures to come take leadership in yours. America has always been a melting pot. It is one of its strengths and the Statue of Liberty reminds of that.
But another strength is when Americans become mothers and fathers themselves, actively reproducing the next generation of Americans and passing on those cultural values which make the United States the unique and valued beacon to the world that it is.
This new census data shows us we are now falling down at this task by historic measures. This must change.
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