The United States needs more people. Here’s why.
In early May, President Biden increased the refugee admissions cap to 62,500 from the historically low Trump era of 15,000. But that is not enough, and the reason is embedded in two recent surprising numbers: 7.4 percent and 266,000.
The first, a result of the 2020 census, showed that the U.S. population grew at such a meager rate over the past 10 years that it was the slowest since the Great Depression. And it was the second slowest growth rate since the first census was taken in 1790.
Although Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo pronounced the census to be “complete and accurate,” some demographers argue that it is neither: The Trump administration ended the count earlier than scheduled. Over the next several months, challenges will undoubtedly test the data, especially when the numbers become official on Sept. 30.
Still, the downward trend appears to be spot-on. Note these statistics: The U.S. experienced a population growth of 13.2 percent in 2000, but declined 10 years later to 9.7 percent, and now we have today’s continued falloff.
The second number indicates job hires in April. Most observers expected at least 1 million new jobs for the month. Instead, there were only a quarter of that prediction. CNBC ran a headline that said, “April’s expected hiring boom goes bust.” Some commentators blamed the government stimulus and unemployment benefit extensions. They argue that the unemployed receive more from the government than they would when working, so why not just stay home? Others counter that this is the very reason to help the poor and unemployed, because it will help them return to the labor market sooner.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who is also a Nobel laureate in economics, recently looked at the data to discover where the weaknesses were. This is what he wrote. First, don’t just look at a single month’s jobs report, especially during a pandemic. Second, he pointed to the Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis that indicated there were “big job gains in low-wage sectors like leisure and hospitality,” but “job losses in high-wage sectors like professional services.” Government payments had nothing to do with the low numbers.
One thing is clear. American prosperity flows from its economic power, which depends on human resources. When we have fewer births and fewer people searching for jobs, productivity suffers, and life becomes more difficult for increasing numbers of people.
The answer is right in front of us: increased immigration and more refugees. This is a true nonpartisan issue. Four years ago, almost 1,500 Republican and Democratic economists urged President Trump and congressional leaders to reform the immigration system to allow more people into the country. “Some of us favor free markets,” they wrote, “while others have championed for a larger role for government in the economy. But on some issues, there is near universal agreement. One such issue concerns the broad economic benefit that immigrants to this country bring.”
And why is this? Because, they said, “immigration brings entrepreneurs who start new businesses that hire American workers; immigration brings young workers who help offset the large-scale retirement of baby boomers: immigration brings diverse skill sets that keep our workforce flexible, help companies grow, and increase the productivity of American workers: and immigrants are far more likely to work in innovative, job-creating fields such as science, technology, engineering, and math that create life-improving products and drive economic growth.”
Among the signatories were people who worked under Presidents Reagan and Bush as well as Clinton and Obama.
If the letter were not enough, in an independent analysis for ProPublica, “Adam Ozimek and Mark Zandi at Moody’s Analytics, an independent economics firm, estimated that for every 1 percent increase in U.S. population made of immigrants, GDP rises 1.15 percent.” This too was four years ago. We can only imagine the growth of the economy from 2017 to 2021, even with the pandemic, had President Trump taken advantage of this analysis to stimulate the economy to greater heights.
We already knew that the fertility rate in the 21st century was staggering in its decline. Births are now pegged at 1.73 children per woman, the lowest in some 40 years. To increase immigration now is at the heart of our future success as Americans. History shows the great achievements that succeeding generations of immigrants and refugees bring to this country, and now is the time for Congress to act.
Jack Fruchtman, who lives in Aquinnah, taught constitutional law and politics for more than 40 years.