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A Population Slowdown in the U.S.

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The Daily
Duration: 24:18
The latest census revealed that the United States had seen the second-slowest decade of population growth since 1790, when the count began.The country may be entering an era of substantially lower population growth, demographers said.How could this redefine the nation’s future?Guest: Sabrina Taverni
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The latest census revealed that the United States had seen the second-slowest decade of population growth since 1790, when the count began.The country may be entering an era of substantially lower population growth, demographers said.How could this redefine the nation’s future?Guest: Sabrina Tavernise, a national correspondent covering demographics for The New York Times. Sign up here to get The Daily in your inbox each morning. And for an exclusive look at how the biggest stories on our show come together, subscribe to our newsletter. Background reading: The numbers, the product of the most embattled census process in decades, underlined the long-running trend of population gains in the South and West.Here is a roundup of what you need to know about the census results.For more information on today’s episode, visit nytimes.com/thedaily. Transcripts of each episode will be made available by the next workday.
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So Sabrina. When the U. S. Government finished counting the american people this time in the census it found that the american population was growing really slowly. That was a bit surprising to me personally what's going on here. So this is a very interesting and relatively new thing for the United States. We have this extremely slow population increase which is different for the United States. The United States usually grows really quickly. What we saw with the census data was the second slowest decade for population growth in american history. That is since 17 90 when the United States government started taking the census. So that's really surprising. We had known that there was some slowdown for some time. But this census data really tells us this is really the new normal in the United States. So population is growing at a slower rate. How do we explain this? So instead there are two forces that make up population growth. One is immigration and the other is birth. Then of course there are deaths. So you put all of these things together and that's what makes the population grow. And so for the past decade or so, we've seen a real slowdown in immigration. And there are a number of reasons for that. A lot fewer people coming from Mexico. That's in part because the Mexican economy is a bit better. The birth rate in Mexico itself has gone way down. So there's less pressure for people to come to the United States to work. But the real interesting part of what's going on and the real mystery is the birth rate. So the birth rate began to decline in 2000 and eight during the financial crisis. And we would expect that because birth rates tend to decline when countries have financial crises, when they're in economic distress, people put off having babies. But usually once the economy starts to pick up again, the birth rate goes back up. And that's precisely what demographers were expecting to happen in 2000 and 9, 10 and 11. But something very strange happened, which was the birth rate kept going down, it went down and down and down, and no one could understand why. So it used to be that there were 2.1 Children born to every american women. That was before 2000 and eight, That's exactly enough to replace their parents when they die. That's called replacement level fertility. But now it's 1.7 Children per woman, which is below the rate of replacement. So, if we didn't have any immigration at all, our population would actually be declining eventually. Yes. And that has opened up this whole new line of inquiry. Demographers are asking why is this happening? Mhm. Well, let's let's get into those ideas. Why do you folks think, why do demographers economists think that the birth rate is declining? So the most straightforward theory right now is that it's about the economy. So essentially, you have this large group of american women, younger millennials, women in their twenties who are putting off having Children. And it's not because they don't want to have kids, they do want to have kids. We know that from survey work that's been done, but they just don't feel like they can afford to have kids. And if you think about it, this group of women, they're graduating and going out into the world as adults into a really different economy than their parents did. So they have huge amounts of student debt. That wasn't the case in the past. Home prices and rents are just skyrocketing. That's also very different than what their parents had. And there's also been 40 years of economic inequality in this country and that is essentially made a very, very difficult job market and life for people in the lower middle classes who are trying to make it on, you know, essentially low wage work cobbling together a couple of different jobs schedules are incredibly erratic, which makes it very difficult to plan around a daycare pickup. Right? And the other driver is that there is a very weak social safety net in the United States. Unlike other countries, it has a lot of holes. So think about it, no parental leave, no sick leave, extremely difficult to get a child care subsidy. So, essentially what you have is this whole group of young women looking out there into the economy, looking at their lives and essentially saying, no way can I afford to have a kid right now? It's too expensive, I can't afford it.
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