US Could Be World’s Most Populous Country

April 17, 2013 • United States, Daily Email Recap

Joseph Chamie, former director of the United Nations Population Division, is said to have written the following article as an April Fool’s Joke. Unfortunately, it was not published until April 15th, 2013 and caused considerable confusion to its readers, who understandably took it at face value.

US Could Be World’s Most Populous Country

Nations that manage to satisfy a large population politically, economically, socially can become beacons of hope for the rest of the world. The US is the world’s third most populated country, trailing China and India, but could aim to become most populated by the end of the century: An eightfold increase in annual immigration would lead to a fivefold increase in the US population, explains demographer Joseph Chamie. Of course, population rankings depend on what other nations do: Others may woo immigrants; fertility rates could rise or fall. Current projections suggest that China’s and India’s populations will plateau, then drop, respectively, by 2030 and 2060; populations of Nigeria and the US, with its current rate of immigration, show a steady rise. “Global opinion polls show that many people at virtually all skill levels would like to emigrate, and the number-one destination is overwhelmingly the United States,” Chamie concludes. Immigration is a dominant force behind population totals for the US, as well as its balance between young and old and transmission of social values. – YaleGlobal

NEW YORK: The United States could aim to have largest population in the world before the end of the century, thus ensuring its power.

The US now has a population of 316 million – third largest after China, 1.36 billion, and India, 1.28 billion – and could aim for 1.6 billion, simply by opening wide its doors to immigration from across the globe as it did during most of its 237-year history.

If immigration to America were increased to 10 million immigrants per year throughout the remainder of this century, the demographic result would be a US population of about 940 million by 2060 and 1.60 billion by the close the 21st century (see Figure 1). The world’s second and third largest populations in 2100 are projected to be India, 1.55 billion, and China, 0.94 billion.

However, if in the coming decades America continues with net immigration of about 1.2 million annually, as currently assumed, the US population would reach 420 million by year 2060. Although this projected growth would be an increase of more than 100 million, the US population would fall to fourth place as Nigeria takes over the number three position with a projected population of 460 million in 2060. The populations of the three countries currently larger than Nigeria – Brazil, Indonesia and Pakistan – are expected to peak around midcentury and begin declining thereafter due to projected low fertility rates falling below replacement levels. Also in the longer term, the gap between projected US population, with 1.2 million immigrants annually, versus the larger US population, with 10 million immigrants annually, widens rapidly, resulting in a difference of 1.1 billion Americans at the close of the century.

Immigration is the chief source of America’s population growth in the coming decades, unlike China, India and Nigeria. US fertility hovers around the replacement level of about two children per woman and is unlikely to change significantly in the foreseeable future. If immigration were to cease altogether, the US population in 2060 would grow to 355 million, an increase of 39 million, but the labor force would decline by several percentage points and the age structure would be considerably older.

America could easily accommodate a larger population given its considerable size and abundant resources. A population of 1.6 billion would increase the nation’s density from today’s 33 persons per square kilometers to 165 persons in 2100, about half the level in Massachusetts today. This future density is well below current densities in Germany at 231 per square kilometer; Japan, 335; and the United Kingdom, 255. Even if the world’s entire population of 7.1 billion were to reside in America, the nation’s resulting density of 732 persons per square kilometer would still be less than current densities of Bahrain, at 1,818; Bangladesh, 1,033; and Singapore, 7,447.

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