United States' Population Trends, Challenges & Outlook

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  • 0:01 Facts About the…
  • 0:49 Still Growing
  • 2:04 A Nation of Minorities
  • 3:23 Challenges in the Future
  • 4:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

The United States is the world's third most populous nation, with more and more people immigrating to the country every year. This lesson examines the challenges and outlook of U.S. population growth.

Facts About the American Population

Few countries are quite as demographically diverse as the United States. Home to more than 320 million people, it is the third largest country in the world by population, and its great diversity comes from having attracted immigrants from around the world. Much of this is a direct result of the enormous economic opportunity of the country, something that most other nations only aspire to match. As you can imagine, a place of such diversity, size, and wealth presents truly unique questions about the future of its population. And in many ways related to its population trends, the U.S. is more similar to much poorer states than the countries that it counts as economic and developmental peers.

Still Growing

A prime example of this similarity to poorer countries is manifested in the growth rate of the American population. Like many poorer countries, the population of the United States is still growing. That said, in the last decade or so, the birth rate fell to fewer than two children per woman. This is a birth rate more in line with richer countries than poorer countries. In other words, by new births alone, the United States could not continue to grow. And yet it is still growing. This is a direct result of the considerable number of immigrants who arrive in the United States every day to seek a new life.

That said, the experiences of immigrants are not equal, nor have they ever really been equitable. In the past, European immigrants were favored in comparison to those from other regions of the world. Today, such quotas are long gone, but the experience of a Latin American migrant farm worker is worlds away from that of a South Asian software engineer in Silicon Valley. The farm laborer, even with proper paperwork, will often face discrimination due to the status of his job, while the computer programmer, equipped with the latest highly skilled migrant visa, will likely face a fat paycheck.

A Nation of Minorities

Yet, if you go back to 1776 and look at the founding of the United States, you won't see Hispanics or Asians really represented. After all, much of the country's early immigration was white, and whites still make up more than 60% of the total population. However, that figure is quickly changing. Within decades, the United States will be a country of minorities, in part because the white birth rate is markedly lower than the birth rates of other ethnic groups. In fact, such a change has already happened in public schools, where there is no clear racial majority.

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