What an Older, Slower-Growing U.S. Population Means for the Economy

New census data paint a picture of an older and more diverse U.S. where population growth is slowing, changes that have major economic and political upshots.

The country’s population grew 7.4% over the past decade, according to 2020 census data released last week. That marks the second slowest rate on record for a decennial census, behind the 1930s Great Depression era. Barron’s examined the implications of dwindling population growth on the labor market in a recent cover feature.

The birthrate in the U.S. began to fall around the start of the 2007-09 recession. Ronald Lee, an economist and demographer at the University of California, Berkeley, told Barron’s last month that he had expected a temporary drop in the birthrate. But the decline has continued to about 1.6 births per woman from 2.1 about a decade ago, and Covid has only exacerbated the trend.

“This is extraordinary and unprecedented for the U.S.,” said Lee, adding that the decline translates to population growth that is roughly a half-percentage point slower a year and thus on track to turn negative over coming decades.


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