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50 years ago, scientists predicted steady population growth in the United States

Information output – Science News, June 5, 1971

The U.S. population is growing at a rate of one percent per year, and even with lower fertility rates, this trend is likely to continue. If the fertility rate dropped to 2.1 children per woman, the country’s population would level in the year 2037 at 267 million. But that would require an unlikely 50 percent decrease in the birth rate.


Those projections, based on 1970 census data, have recently deviated. As of April 2020, about 331.5 million people were living in the United States, according to census data. But from July 2019 to July 2020, the population grew by only 0.35 percent, the lowest annual growth rate in more than a century. For most of the last 50 years, the population has grown by about 1 percent a year, thanks in large part to immigration. While the fertility rate fell below 2.1 children per woman after 1971 and the birth rate fell by 29 percent between 1970 and 2014, the population of foreign origin quadrupled from just under 10 million people to more than 40 million. However, in recent years immigration has decreased and life expectancy has decreased (SN: 21/12/17). In 2020, the fertility rate dropped to an all-time low of 1.64 children per woman and the birth rate (with 56 births per 1,000 women) became the lowest recorded, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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