Washington: US population growth has slowed to the lowest rate since the Great Depression, the Census Bureau said Monday, as Americans continued their march to the South and West and one-time engines of growth, New York and California, lost political influence, reports AP.
Altogether, the U.S. population rose to 331.5 million last year, the Census Bureau said, a 7.4% increase over the previous decade that was the second-slowest ever. Experts say that paltry pace reflects the combination of an aging population, slowing immigration and the scars of the Great Recession more than a decade ago, which led many young adults to delay marriage and families.
The state population figures, known as the apportionment count, determine distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal spending each year. They also mark the official beginning of once-a-decade redistricting battles. The numbers released Monday, along with more detailed data expected later this year, will be used by state legislatures or independent commissions to redraw political maps to account for shifts in population.
The 2020 census faced a once-in-a-century coronavirus pandemic, wildfires, hurricanes, allegations of political interference with the Trump administration’s failed effort to add a citizenship question, fluctuating deadlines and lawsuits.
The overall numbers confirm what demographers have long warned — that the country’s growth is stalling. Many had expected growth to come in even below the 1930s levels given the long hangover of the Great Recession and the drying up of immigration, which came to a virtual halt during last year’s pandemic.
William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., warned that even a recovering economy may not change the trend with the population aging rapidly and immigration contentious. “Unlike the Great Depression, it’s part of a process where we’re likely to keep having slow growth,” Frey said.
Despite California’s slow growth, the state still has 10 million more residents than Texas. North Carolina and Texas are positioned to become the intellectual powerhouses of the new economy, as the South has snatched away major manufacturing industries like automobiles from the Rust Belt.
But population booms also bring new burdens, like increased traffic, rising home prices and strains on an infrastructure already grappling with climate change — vividly illustrated when the Texas power grid failed in the winter storms of February.
The legal deadline for turning in the apportionment numbers was Dec. 31, but the Census Bureau pushed back that date to April because of challenges caused by the pandemic and the need for more time to correct not-unexpected irregularities.
More detailed figures will be released later this year showing populations by race, Hispanic origin, gender and housing at geographic levels as small as neighborhoods. This redistricting data will be used for redrawing precise congressional and legislative districts.
President Joe Biden sent Monday’s numbers to the Capitol, where the House clerk has 15 days to notify governors.