US Population Futures…thought you’d never ask…

The Census Bureau’s release of updated US population projections are always eagerly awaited…with baited breath, as they say, or with "breath like bait," as the honorable Joe Schwartz… chief media relations specialist at Cornell University (and former senior editor at American Demographics magazine) would say. Population projections at the national level make assumptions about age-specific birth rates (how many children will be born to women of a certain age), age-specific mortality rates (how many people will die at each age), and net international migration (the net of inflows and outflows of people across American borders). Birth rates (fertility) and death rates (mortality) are demographers’ dreams, because they shift at predictable rates, but net immigration is a demographer’s nightmare because it’s all about best quesstimates.

But first, the topline trend: During the Great Recession, about 300,000 undocumented immigrants (annually 2007 to 2009) returned to their native countries from the US, either voluntarily or by deportation (Note: Obama’s numbers are up on this activity). That number dropped to about 150,000 between 2010 and 2012, but the key point is that those out-migrants were the more recent immigrants, according to the Pew Research Center, the reigning experts in this type of estimate (shout out and thank you to Dr. Jeffery Passel). Result: a larger share of currently undocumented US residents are long-term US residents.

Now, back to the Census Bureau’s assumption about the future path of net international migration. Lo and behold, the assumption for annual net immigration in the Census Bureau’s national population projections increased from their 2012 series to their 2014 series. Here’s the chart:

projections chart for blog.jpg

So, there seems to be some new thinking about immigration between understandable trends due to economic factors that tend to drive such matters (Pew and company) and studies of the future which necessarily rely on evolving methodologies (US Census Bureau). We respect and admire all serious methodologies applied to this subject. But, this particular result requires more study. Stay tuned, and thank you for thinking about this in your precious spare time!


Tom ExterComment