Startling Decline in Birthrate Puts America at Risk of Depopulation

A decline in American births troubles demographers with worries of depopulation. Photo by Hollie Santos on Unsplash.

A decline in American births troubles demographers with worries of depopulation. Photo by Hollie Santos on Unsplash.

The Numbers Are In…

It comes as no surprise that 2020 was a slow year for births in the United States.  With widespread financial instability, a skyrocketing rate of coronavirus cases, rampant employment, and general despondency over the state of things, it’s not difficult to imagine why prospective parents would choose to wait out the storm before hopping on the baby bandwagon.

However, the pandemic only exacerbated the issue of a slowing birthrate, which began to decelerate a little over a decade ago.  The Census Bureau recently released a report saying that the United States population grew 7.4% since the last official count in 2010, which has us inching along only slightly faster than the growth rate of Depression-Era America.  7.4% may not seem like an unalarming statistic at first— after all, the country is still growing— but downhearted demographers are worried about what the slump means for the future of the nation, especially now that the compounding pressures of the pandemic and decreased immigration are in full force.  Many experts believe that depopulation waits on the horizon.

What This Means

Dr. Ronald Lee, demographer and economist at the University of California at Berkeley, claims that the deceleration is nothing to glance over.  “If it stays lower like this,” he told the New York Times, “it means the end of American exceptionalism in this regard.”

What does this mean for us now?  A few of the potential positives of depopulation are urban decongestion, less pollution, more available resources such as living accommodations, power, food, and water, and fewer demands on government spending.

A positive prognosis is, however, unexpected.  Sources suggest that the long-term challenges of depopulation include an overall lower standard of living, a withering workforce, decreased access to quality care facilities and schools, fewer cultural hallmarks such as festivals and sporting events, widespread business failure, and a dangerous lack of innovation and invention.

A steady rate of young people entering the workforce is what powers the United States economy.  When there are more retirees than working members of society, countries without robust retirement systems see the costs of care shoot through the ceiling, thereby driving up wages and making healthcare more inaccessible to everyone.


Italian professor of demography at the University of Florence, Massimo Livi Bacci, put it concisely: “All things being equal, population increase leads to increased per capita production.”  What this means is that a larger population generates more wealth per person than a country experiencing depopulation.  When the number of laborers on the way into the workforce is higher or equal to the number of laborers leaving the workforce, the economy can turn over, grow, expand, and innovate to accommodate the needs of the people that power it.  Depopulation signifies the death of such an economy.

What do you think American depopulation means?  Do you believe that the worries of the aforementioned demographers and economists are sure-footed?  Are there more benefits or drawbacks to depopulation that haven’t been addressed?  Please leave a comment below and start a conversation.

Until we know for sure what a declining birthrate and prognosed depopulation mean for the future of the United States, there will always be questions regarding the stability of life as we know it.  For now, all we can do is wait and prepare.

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About Cristin Dickey

Born in Maryland, raised in Texas, and educated in Utah, Cristin is a purveyor of stories from all widths and walks of life.  With a background in filmmaking and a staunch passion for literature, she aspires to give digital spaces a uniquely human touch.

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