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Below is a complimentary Demography Unplugged research note written by Hedgeye Demography analyst Neil Howe. Click here to learn more and subscribe.

Is America Heading for Zero Population Growth? - AdobeStock 295160073

In half of all states last year, more people died than were born. Could the slowdown in U.S. population growth soon lead to our first population decline? (The Wall Street Journal)

NH: This is a solid overview of what’s happened to U.S. population growth over the past few decades.

Early estimates indicate that in the shadow of the pandemic, the population grew 0.35% for the year that ended July 1, 2020--the lowest rate ever.

The big question is if whether we may soon see a (transitory) population decline. The deciding factor will be immigration.

I’m quoted here saying that, given the extent to which the pandemic has suppressed immigration, it is possible that the next population update (for the year ending July 1, 2021) will show a small decline.

What is more likely is that U.S. deaths will exceed births. Either event would be a historical first.

In April, when we presented our 2020 Demography Review of the United States, it included charts showing that in 2021 and 2022, nearly all of our meager population growth is projected to be from net migration.

They also showed that working-age population growth in 2020, even including immigration, actually did go below zero. And that was a historical first. Reason?

Large Boomer cohorts are now reaching age 65 (the exit ramp), small last-wave Millennial cohorts are now reaching age 20 (the entrance ramp), and 2020 was a nasty mortality year for all age brackets. 

Is America Heading for Zero Population Growth? - Aug10 1

Is America Heading for Zero Population Growth? - Aug10 2

Population growth has been the economic driver for the developed world for the last two centuries.

But the numbers don’t lie. We’ve entered a new era of near-zero growth, and unless birth or migration trends change, we’ll be here well into the 2060s.

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Neil Howe is a renowned authority on generations and social change in America. An acclaimed bestselling author and speaker, he is the nation's leading thinker on today's generations—who they are, what motivates them, and how they will shape America's future.

A historian, economist, and demographer, Howe is also a recognized authority on global aging, long-term fiscal policy, and migration. He is a senior associate to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C., where he helps direct the CSIS Global Aging Initiative.

Howe has written over a dozen books on generations, demographic change, and fiscal policy, many of them with William Strauss. Howe and Strauss' first book, Generations is a history of America told as a sequence of generational biographies. Vice President Al Gore called it "the most stimulating book on American history that I have ever read" and sent a copy to every member of Congress. Newt Gingrich called it "an intellectual tour de force." Of their book, The Fourth Turning, The Boston Globe wrote, "If Howe and Strauss are right, they will take their place among the great American prophets."

Howe and Strauss originally coined the term "Millennial Generation" in 1991, and wrote the pioneering book on this generation, Millennials Rising. His work has been featured frequently in the media, including USA Today, CNN, the New York Times, and CBS' 60 Minutes.

Previously, with Peter G. Peterson, Howe co-authored On Borrowed Time, a pioneering call for budgetary reform and The Graying of the Great Powers with Richard Jackson.

Howe received his B.A. at U.C. Berkeley and later earned graduate degrees in economics and history from Yale University.