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Researchers expect the US to face underpopulation, blaming a falling birth rate and economic crises

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Why the US is facing potential underpopulation, and what it could mean for...
Key Points
  • Every 1 percentage point increase in the unemployment rate reduces births by 1 percent, according to Wellesley College economics professor Phil Levine.
  • The U.S. population is now more than 330 million people, and globally, it's nearly 7.8 billion.
  • The global population is expected to peak at 9.7 billion by 2064 and then fall back down to 8.8 billion by 2100.

The U.S. birth rate in 2019 fell to its lowest level in 35 years, well below the requisite 2.1 babies per woman required to sustain our population through birth alone. Researchers expect this trend to continue into 2020 and 2021.

"What we learned from the Great Recession is that every 1 percentage point increase in the unemployment rate reduces births by 1 percent," said Wellesley College economics professor Phil Levine.

His research implies there will likely be a Covid baby bust instead of a baby boom in the U.S. That will mean fewer American-born workers and consumers, which could slow long-term economic growth.

The U.S. population is now more than 330 million people. and globally, it's nearly 7.8 billion. Researchers point to immigration as an easy way to protect size of the U.S. population.

"The most popular place for people to immigrate in the world is still the U.S.," said Ipsos Public Affairs CEO Darrell Bricker. "It's still that shining city on a hill."

The World Bank estimates that by 2050 there will be 143 million additional climate migrants from Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

NGOs like Population Matters are trying to ensure the proper distribution of resources while protecting the environment and all individuals as the world faces changes in population size.

"What we're particularly concerned about is that every country in the world, wherever possible, can enable people to move to their countries and in particular can absorb refugees and asylum seekers," Population Matters director Robin Maynard said.

Analysts still expect the global population to rise during the next 100 years. After that, researchers like University of Notre Dame economics professor Kasey Buckles expect to see fertility to level off or decline. She attributes development to a falling birth rate in emerging nations.

"We see as countries develop, fertility tends to decline. And so we expect, as development spreads around the world that that will happen. And that's why we project that actually fertility or actually populations will start to decline around the world sometime within the next hundred years," said Buckles.

The global population is expected to peak at 9.7 billion by 2064 and then fall back down to 8.8 billion by 2100. Allowing for more immigration to the U.S. will help maintain a steady flow of workers and consumers, supporting economic growth.

American businesses can also turn to the baby boomer generation to continue to participate as workers and consumers in the economy.

"The single biggest power group in the economy going forward are older women because there's a lot of them and there's more every day," Bricker said.

The most successful businesses will be able to adapt to the changing population demographics.

"At the end of the day, people matter. So the more people there are, the more economic activity there is," said Levine.