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Immigration Law

Slowing U.S. Population Growth Could Prompt New Pressure for Immigration Reform

Muzaffar Chishti and Randy Capps, May 26, 2021

"The 2020 decennial census revealed a near-record decline in U.S. population growth over the last decade. Between 2010 and 2020 the population grew just 7.4 percent—the second-lowest rate of any decade since the country’s first census in 1790, and just a hair faster than the record-low 7.3 percent growth rate during the 1930s, amid the Great Depression.

One important component of this overall slower growth is reduced immigration, which had been a significant driver of recent U.S. population increase. Legal immigration has remained more or less steady, but the number of unauthorized immigrants has shrunk since 2007. Particularly notable is the decline in the Mexican-born population—especially those who are unauthorized—which is a trend that is both sharp and underappreciated.

Slowed immigration has considerable implications for the future U.S. labor market, changes in the composition of the foreign-born population, and its distribution across the states. These dynamics could potentially affect public perceptions of immigration and may open the political space for engaging in long postponed but much-needed reforms to U.S. policy. Indeed, advocates for greater immigration already are using the census findings to help further their case that immigration will be important for continued economic growth and vitality for the United States."